Author: British Council | Published on 1 September 2022


Stage 1: Present examples

Write these sentences on the board and ask. “What do you notice about the sentences?”

a) If you heat water to 100 degrees, it boils.

b) If I pass the test tomorrow, I’ll be happy.

c) If I found some money on the street, I would spend it. 

d) If I had caught the bus, I would have been on time.

To help learners, ask the following questions:

1. Which sentence is:

  • always true?
  • impossible to change?
  • possible, but not likely?
  • possible and likely?

2. What word is in all the sentences?

3. Look at this sentence. What do you notice?

  • Water boils if you heat it to 100 degrees.

Use L1 if necessary. 

Stage 2: Take feedback

Ask learners to share their feedback on what they noticed in the examples. Some key points you might want to share with them include:

  • All the sentences have an ‘if clause’ and a ‘result clause’. 
  • Sentence a) is something which is always true. We use present simple in both parts.
  • Sentence b) is possible and likely. Both parts of the sentence are talking about the future, but after ‘If’ we use present simple.
  • Sentence c) is possible but not likely. We use past simple and would.
  • Sentence d) is impossible to change. We use if + past perfect and would + have + past participle.
  • We can swap the order of the two clauses without changing the meaning i.e. I’ll be happy if I pass the test tomorrow.    

Stage 3: Use the grammar

a. Complete the sentences.

Write up some sentences with gaps on the board and a list of verbs. Say: “Complete the sentences with the correct form of the verb and any other words you need. You can use the verbs more than once.”

be     eat     feel     go     have     heat

  1. If you _________ ice, it melts.
  2. If you _________ too much, you _________ sick.
  3. If I _______ any friends, I _________ sad.
  4. If it ________ sunny yesterday, I ___________ swimming 

b. Matching

On the board write up some ‘if clauses’ and matching ‘result clauses’, but mixed up. Say: “Match the endings to the correct sentence starts.” 

1. If you cut an onion, a) you’d be happy.
2. If you run every day, b) you cry.
3. If you had won the race, c) you wouldn’t have been sad.
4. If you hadn’t failed the test, d) you’ll be fit.

c. Chains

Choose 7 learners to sit in a circle with you. Start by saying: “If I won a million dollars, I would buy a big house.” Turn to the learner sitting on your left and say: “If I bought a big house, …” and say: “Finish the sentence.” Demonstrate the game by going round the circle with each learner taking the second clause of the previous sentence and making that the ‘if clause’ of their sentence. 

Once you have demonstrated the activity, put all the learners in small groups of between 6 and 8 learners and get them to play the game. 


present simple: the tense used to talk about habitual actions, behaviour, or states in the present. 

past simple: the tense used to talk about habitual actions, behaviour, or situations that happened or existed before now.

past perfect: the past perfect simple and the past perfect continuous are the tenses used to talk about actions, behaviour, or situations that began at a particular time in the past and were either complete or still continuing at that time.

past participle: in English, the ‘-ed’ form of a verb, that is used for forming the perfect tenses, in the passive, and as a modifier.

swap: to give something to someone in exchange for something else

clause: a group of words that contains a verb and often a subject, object, complement and adjunct. 

demonstrate: show