Word order in if-sentences

(Particularities of the word order in conditional sentences / if-clauses)

Table of contents – sentence order in if-clauses

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Word order in conditional clauses
  2. Further explanations and exercises

What needs to be considered about the word order in if-sentences?

Generally, full conditional sentences, which means considered as a combination of separate clauses, are used to express an idea or situation that depends on another. Thus, a complete conditional sentence consists of two parts: the main clause, which states the result, and a subordinate clause, which indicates the condition. Note that the part including the ‘if’ is the subordinate clause, not the main clause. Nevertheless, for the sake of simplicity, the whole sequence of clauses is sometimes merely referred to as if-clause. Compare the sentence order:

  • The syntax of conditional sentences (if-constructions) is quite simple – either the main clause (independent) or the subordinate clause (dependent) can be at the beginning. However, if the conditional sentence starts with the subordinate clause (first position), a comma is used to separate it. Examples:
    • We won’t arrive late if we hurry up.
      • The main clause is located before the subordinate clause.
      • Consequence: No comma is required.
    • If you stop smoking, it will be good for your health.
      • The subordinate clause precedes the main clause.
      • Consequence: A comma separates the two clauses here.
    • They wouldn’t have broken into the house if the alarm had been turned on.”
      • The main clause also appears before the subordinate clause.
      • Consequence: Here, a comma is neither used.
    • If you saved more money, you could afford a new car.”
      • The subordinate clause heads the whole construction before the main clause.
      • Consequence: Separation by comma also takes place.

Further explanations referring to the ‘Word order in if-sentences’

The following explanations are related to the topic ‘Word order in conditional sentences (if-clauses) in English grammar’ and could also be interesting: