054 How to use conditional tenses in business

054 How to use conditional tenses in business

Hi and welcome back to the Art of Business English. This week Andrew is joined once more by Abel as they discuss how to use the various conditional tense forms in business.

In this value packed episode listeners will benefit from a detailed explanation and analysis of the various forms and how they can be applied to different situations. The zero, first, second, third and mixed conditionals are all covered and explored through a variety of business specific examples.

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Episode transcript

Andrew:              Hi there. Welcome back to the Art of Business English. Andrew here again, with my colleague, Abel. How you doing, buddy?

Abel:                     Fine, thank you. It’s my pleasure again.

Andrew:              Yeah, welcome back. Basically, last week we covered in episode … I think it was episode 53.

Abel:                     Yes.

Andrew:              We covered wishes and regrets, a bit of grammar there. I was talking to Abel, and he thought it would be a good idea to come back onto the show and just to go over the conditionals. We did discuss the conditionals in the last episode. We made contrast between the similarities between wishes and regrets and the second and third conditional.

As a continuation from last week’s episode, we thought we would just clarify and go over the different conditionals, just so that everyone’s clear. If you haven’t looked at episode 53, then go back, take a look, and that’ll be a great context for today’s episode, as well.

What we’ll be covering today is, we’re going to look at all the conditionals. So, we’re looking at zero conditional first, second, third, and then we’ll look at some mixed conditionals which can maybe be a little bit confusing for learners.

I can’t express enough how important conditionals are. We use them a lot in business. They’re essential for when you’re negotiating, for example, and we use them a lot in meetings. Actually, we use them a lot throughout all of our speech in many, many, many areas. You can use them in your writings, in your e-mails, meetings, negotiations, in your presentations. So, it’s incredibly important that we understand how to use them correctly.

So, I’m going to be looking to Abel’s experience and advice today as we go over the various conditionals.

So, Abel, where would you like to start?

Abel:                     First I would like to make a reminder, or to remind of the different types of conditionals we have in English, but before that, I would like to make a comparison between conditionals in English and conditionals in other languages.

Andrew:              Okay, let’s try and keep the focus on Spanish.

Abel:                     Yes. Conditionals in languages like Spanish for example, are verbs forms that are conjugated, but in English conditionals, or what we call if clauses or if sentences actually, are two part sentences. Which means that one part is the if clause and the other part is the main clause or sometimes we call it the consequence clause, because this main clause is a result of actually the if clause.

Andrew:              Yeah.

Abel:                     The main conditionals or the main four conditionals in English are conditional zero or zero conditional, conditional type one or the first conditional, conditional type two or the second conditional, and conditional type three or the third conditional. We also have other conditionals, but that are rarely used. For example, what we call mixed conditionals.

First, we are going to talk about the form of each conditional before we talk about its usage in English.

When it comes to zero conditional, for instance, the form is, if + present simple, and the if clause, and then we have the present simple in the main clause or the consequence clause. Here I will give you an example to understand this conditional better. For instance, when we say, “If the price of a product falls, demand usually rises for this product”.

Andrew:              Yeah, okay. Falls? So, you’ve got falls and rise?

Abel:                     Yes. So here actually we are talking about something that is almost always true.

Andrew:              Yeah.

Abel:                     Also, we use this conditional when we talk about facts. For example, we would say, “if you heat ice, it melts.” It means that it’s always a fact that whenever ice gets, for example, heated, then it becomes a liquid.

Andrew:              Yeah.

Abel:                     So, this is something that never changes for instance.

Andrew:              Yeah. Same as water. If you heat water to one hundred degrees[crosstalk 00:05:17], it boils.

Abel:                     Exactly. It boils, yes.

Andrew:              These are true facts, or things that we generally accept to be true, and if you look at the structure, the verb in the if clause and the verb in the consequent or the result clause, they’re both in the present simple. So if you heat, melt. Okay. Or if you heat, boils.

Abel:                     Exactly.

Andrew:              If prices decrease, then demand goes up.

Abel:                     Or rises.

Andrew:              Rises. Okay good.

Abel:                     That’s right.

So, this is what we call conditional zero. Now, why do we call it conditional zero? Because actually this is not a real conditional sentence. It looks like a conditional sentence because of the if clause. If you heat ice, it melts. But, if here can be replaced by when, and then the meaning would be the same. So, when you say, “when you heat ice it melts”, actually the meaning doesn’t change. And when we have a sentence with “when” it has nothing to do with a conditional sentence, because actually that’s not a real conditional sentence.

Andrew:              Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Abel:                     That’s why we call it conditional zero or zero conditional.

Andrew:              Okay, good. So, the first one then.

Abel:                     Okay, the first conditional then. Let’s move on to conditional type one or the first conditional.

I will start here by introducing the form. The form is “if + present simple and the if clause” and then the future simple or will + the big infinitive in the consequence clause. For instance, if I say, “If the government raises taxes in the next budget (so this is the if clause), consumer capacity will decrease”, for instance.

Andrew:              So, consumer spending?

Abel:                     Or consumer spending, yeah.

Andrew:              Will decrease.

Abel:                     Yeah. Consumer spending will decrease.

So here, actually what we need to look at, what we need to focus on is always the if clause. This means that we know in advance, for instance, that the government has decided to raise taxes in the next budget. So, we say that the consequence will be the fact that consumer spending will decrease. So, we use this conditional when we talk about high probability of something happening in the future based on a fact in the present time, or at the time of speaking.


Andrew:              Yeah.

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About the Author Andrew

Andrew is the CEO and founder of the Art of Business English. Besides teaching and coaching native Spanish speakers in Business English, he is also passionate about mountain biking, sailing and healthy living. When He is not working, Andrew loves to spend time with his family and friends.