It’s a Little “Iffy” – How to Make Conditional Statements

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

Have you ever heard someone say that something is “iffy”? It means that something is uncertain. We aren’t sure IF it will happen or not. It might happy IF everything goes right. It might not happen IF there is a problem.

  • Can we go to the park tomorrow?
    I don’t know. The weather looks a little iffy. (We don’t know what the weather will be like. It might rain, or it might be sunny. We aren’t sure.)
  • When are you going to move into your new house?
    Hmmmmm…it’s a little iffy. The construction has been slow because of all the snow, so we aren’t sure. They said it would be finished next month, but if this winter continues, it might take longer.

How do we use “if” in English? We use it in several ways, but it always shows a cause and an effect. This week, I will show you two kinds of conditional statements – zero conditional and first conditional. First, however, I will show you how a conditional statement is generally formed. There are two parts:

  1. the dependent “if” clause – if + subject + verb, etc.
  2. the independent “then” clause – (then) subject + verb, etc.

You can put the two clauses in either order (dependent + independent OR independent + dependent).

If you give me bad news, I will cry.
I will cry if you give me bad news.

I want you to notice two things:

  1. When the “if” clause is first, you put a comma at the end of it (before the “then” clause). When the independent “then” clause comes first, there is no comma.
  2. I didn’t use the word “then” at all in these sentences. It is optional in the first sentence, but not in the second sentence. You can use “then” when you put the independent clause at the end of the sentence (If you give me bad news, then I will cry.), but you cannot use “then” at the beginning of the sentence.

Now let’s look at two kinds of conditional statements.

Zero Conditional

We use zero conditional for real things that really happen. When we use it, we are talking about general truths – things that are always true. The situations in zero conditional statements are real and possible. The verb in each part of the sentence (independent and dependent clause) is in present tense.

If + subject + present-tense verb + , + subject + present-tense verb.
Subject + present-tense verb + if + subject + present-tense verb.

Here are some examples of zero conditional statements. Which part is the dependent clause, and which part is the independent clause of each one?

  • If you put your hand in water, it gets wet.
  • If you cut yourself, you bleed.
  • Ice melts if you heat it.

In a zero conditional statement, you can change “if” to “when,” and the meaning does not change.

Finish these zero conditional sentences:

  1. If you are _______________, you eat.
  2. If you are hot, you turn on the _________________.
  3. Your clothes get dirty if you ____________________________________ for a living.

First Conditional

“Messy Toddler” By Larali21 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

First conditional is similar to zero conditional, but we use it to talk about a specific, real, possible situation, not a general truth. In zero conditional, I say, “If you put your hand in water, it gets wet.” I am not talking about a specific person’s hand or water that is in the room. When I use first conditional, I am talking more specifically. In first conditional, I say, “If you put your hand in the water, it will get wet.” I say this kind of thing to my little girl all the time.

  • If you touch the hot stove, it will hurt.
  • If you throw the leaf off the balcony, it will fall down.
  • If you don’t want me to carry you, then you have to walk.
  • If you keep screaming, then we will not go to the park.
  • If you don’t eat your dinner, you will be hungry later.

Notice that the verbs in first conditional are a little different from the verbs in zero conditional. The dependent “if” clause still has a present-tense verb, but the independent “then” clause uses a future verb. This is because you are talking about a real, possible, present cause and a real, possible, future effect. “If you don’t pay your cell phone bill (now), Verizon will cut off your service (in the near future).”

If + subject + present-tense verb + , + subject + future-tense verb.
Subject + future-tense verb + if + subject + present-tense verb.

Finish these first conditional sentences:

  1. If you don’t exercise, you will ___________________________________.
  2. You will feel better tomorrow if you _____________________________________.
  3. If it is raining this afternoon, ___________________________________.

When you use “will” in first conditional statements, you are speaking with certainty, but if you aren’t sure about the effect (“then” clause), it is possible to change “will” to “might.”

  • If you don’t eat your dinner, you might be hungry later.
  • You might hurt yourself if you jump off the porch.
  • We might go to the park today if the weather is nice.

Classroom Activity

Here is a fun activity to do with your class. You can also play this game with your family and friends.

  1. Give each person two blank cards or small pieces of paper.
  2. On one card, write a dependent “if” clause. On the other card, write an independent “then” clause to go with the dependent clause. When you put the two cards together, you should have a complete sentence that makes sense.
  3. Collect all the cards, mix them up, and place them face down (so you can’t see the words) on the table.
  4. Take turns turning over two cards. If you turn over two cards that go together to make a complete sentence, you can keep them AND take another turn. If you turn over two cards that don’t go together, turn them face down again, and the next person takes a turn.
  5. When all the cards have been matched, see who has collected the most pairs. That person is the winner!

Five Things to Check in Your Writing

photo by WTCC instructor ecparent

For many students, writing in English is very difficult. You can understand when you read, and people can understand you when you speak, but your teacher always finds MANY mistakes in your writing. How can you improve your writing?

First, when your teacher corrects your writing, ask WHY. Why was my writing wrong? Why did you change it? Why is this way correct? Your teacher can explain the corrections, and the next time you write, you might not make the same mistakes again.

Second, is your teacher correcting the same mistakes again and again? Pay attention! When your teacher corrects your writing, study it. Don’t just throw it away.

Five Things You Can Check

Now, here are 5 things you can check by yourself before you turn in your writing. When you finish a writing assignment, make sure you can answer YES to all of these questions.

  1. Does every sentence start with a capital letter?
  2. Does every sentence end with a period, question mark, or exclamation point?
  3. Does every sentence have at least one subject and one verb?
  4. Does every subject have at least one verb?
  5. Does every verb have at least one subject?

Let’s look at each one a little more.

Start a Sentence with a Capital Letter/End with a Period

The first letter of every sentence should be a capital letter. It is not important what the word is. For other rules about capital letters, here is a good article. Most sentences end with a period (.), but some end with a question mark (?) or an exclamation point (!).

A comma (,) NEVER ends a sentence. When you use a period, question mark, or exclamation point, you are probably at the end of a sentence, so your next letter should be capital.

Many times, when you have a new subject and a new verb, you should also have a new sentence.

Subjects and Verbs

The subject of a sentence is usually the thing or person doing the verb. Look at this sentence:

The baby played.

In the sentence, we have a person (the baby) and an action (played). The baby is the person who is doing the action. “The baby” is the subject of this sentence.

Some sentences have two (or more) subjects and one verb because both of the subjects are doing the same action.

The baby and her brother played.

In this sentence, two people played – the baby (subject 1) and her brother (subject 2).

Some sentences have one subject and two (or more) verbs because one person is doing more than one action.

The baby played and danced.

In this sentence, we have one subject – the baby. The baby did two actions. If we want to write two sentences, we can.

The baby played. The baby danced.

Or if we want to put those two sentences together with “and,” that’s fine too.

The baby played, and the baby danced.

But if you don’t want to repeat “the baby,” you can simply write it one time and have two verbs.

The baby played and danced.

Of course, we can also have multiple subjects and multiple verbs.

The baby and her brother played and danced.

In this example, two people BOTH did two actions.

The rules are that every sentence needs at least one subject and one verb, every subject needs at least one verb, and every verb needs at least one subject. Look at some examples of incorrect sentences to help you understand.

  • The baby and her brother. – Here we have 2 subjects, but no verbs.
  • Played and danced. – Here we have no subject, but 2 verbs.
  • The baby with her brother. – “With” is not a verb.
  • I took care of the baby while danced. – This sentence is confusing because it is not clear who danced. We have a verb, “danced,” but I don’t know if the subject is “I” or “the baby.”

Your Turn

Read this paragraph, and ask the 5 questions above. Can you correct 10 mistakes with capital letters, periods, subjects, and verbs?

i think Katherine Blake knows the rules for a successful job interview she wears professional clothes and looks Mr. Brashov in the eye. she about her experience, and she takes her resumè. she shakes Mr. Brashov’s hand Rosa doesn’t shake his hand. Katherine very professional and nice she is good in the interview.

Clothes for All Levels

This week, we will look at clothes. We will learn the names of clothes. Study the vocabulary for your level:

  • Easy – Level 1 and Level 2
  • Medium – Level 3 and Level 4
  • Difficult – Level 5 and Level 6

If you have questions about the words, you can ask your teacher.

Photo #1

Dress

photo used with permission from Amaris Photography – http://amarisphoto.com/

In this picture, we see:

  • a woman
  • a dress
  • shoes

Easy – The woman is wearing a dress. The dress is blue.
– She is wearing shoes. The shoes are red.
– She is wearing a blue dress. She is wearing red shoes.

Medium – This woman is wearing a blue, knee-length dress and red, high-heeled shoes.

Difficult – This woman is wearing a blue, knee-length dress with cap-sleeves. She’s also wearing red heels with t-straps.

Photo #2

Vicky's Dress

photo by WTCC instructor

In this picture we see:

  • a woman
  • a dress
  • pantyhose
  • shoes

Easy – The woman is wearing a dress. The dress has flowers on it.
– She is wearing shoes. The shoes are black.
– She is wearing pantyhose. The pantyhose are black.
– The woman is wearing black shoes, black pantyhose, and a dress with flowers on it.

Medium – This woman is wearing a long-sleeved, flowered dress, black pantyhose, and black dress shoes.

Difficult – This woman is wearing a long-sleeved, black, flowered dress, black hose, and pointy-toed, black dress shoes.

Photo #3

Lane's Summer Clothes

photo by WTCC instructor

In this picture, we see:

  • a woman
  • a tank top (or sleeveless shirt)
  • shorts

Easy – The woman is wearing a tank top. The tank top is blue.
– She is wearing shorts. The shorts are blue.
– She is wearing a blue tank top and blue shorts.

Medium – This woman is wearing a light blue tank top and long, dark blue shorts.

Difficult – This woman is wearing a light blue tank top with embroidery at the neckline and long, dark blue, denim shorts with cuffs.

Photo #4

Beth's Coat

photo by WTCC instructor

In this picture, we see:

  • a woman
  • a coat
  • a scarf

Easy – The woman is wearing a coat. The coat is black.
– She is wearing a scarf. The scarf is purple.
– She is wearing a black coat and a purple scarf.

Medium – This woman is wearing a hip-length, black coat and a large, purple scarf.

Difficult – This woman is wearing a hip-length, hooded pea coat and a large, purple scarf with tassels.

Photo #5

photo by WTCC instructor

In this picture, we see:

  • a woman
  • a t-shirt
  • sunglasses
  • earrings

Easy – The woman is wearing a t-shirt. The shirt is pink.
– She is wearing sunglasses. The sunglasses are dark.
– She is wearing earrings. The earrings are silver.
– She is wearing a pink t-shirt, dark sunglasses, and silver earrings.

Medium – This woman is wearing a light pink, short-sleeved t-shirt, dark sunglasses, and silver hoop earrings.

Difficult – This woman is wearing a light pink, short-sleeved t-shirt, dark sunglasses, and silver hoop earrings. The t-shirt is nice and would be appropriate for work in many places.

Photo #6

By Official White House Photo by Pete Souza (P120612PS-0463 (direct link)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In this picture, we see:

  • Barack Obama
  • a shirt
  • a tie
  • a jacket

Easy – Barack Obama is wearing a shirt. The shirt is white.
– He is wearing a jacket. The jacket is dark blue.
– He is wearing a tie. The tie is royal blue.
– President Obama is wearing a white shirt, a dark blue jacket, and a royal blue tie.

Medium – President Obama is wearing a white, button-down shirt, a dark blue jacket, and a royal blue tie with white spots.

Difficult – President Obama is wearing a white, button-down, collared shirt, a royal blue tie with white spots, a dark blue suit jacket with an American flag pin on the lapel, and a watch.

Photo #7

By May Lee [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In this picture, we see:

  • a man
  • a t-shirt
  • a jacket
  • jeans
  • boots

Easy – The man is wearing a t-shirt. The shirt is gray.
– He is wearing a jacket. The jacket is gray.
– He is wearing jeans. The jeans are blue.
– He is wearing boots. The boots are brown.
– This man is wearing a gray t-shirt, a gray jacket, blue jeans, and brown boots.

Medium – This man is wearing a gray graphic t-shirt, a dark gray jacket, blue jeans, and brown ankle boots.

Difficult – This man is wearing a gray t-shirt with a skull design, a gray denim jacket, cuffed blue jeans, and brown ankle boots.

Photo #8

photo by WTCC instructor

In this picture, we see:

  • a woman
  • a jacket
  • shorts
  • socks
  • shoes

Easy – The woman is wearing a jacket. The jacket is black.
– She is wearing shorts. The shorts are pink.
– She is wearing socks. The socks are tall.
– She is wearing shoes. The shoes are for running.
– This woman is wearing a black jacket, pink shorts, tall socks, and running shoes.

Medium – This woman is wearing a long-sleeved, black jacket, hot pink shorts, tall, striped socks, and purple running shoes.

Difficult – This woman is wearing a long-sleeved, black jacket, hot pink shorts, striped knee-socks, and purple running shoes. The dog is wearing a collar with a leash.

Your Turn

What are you wearing? Describe your outfit (clothes that you are wearing together). Describe the outfits of your classmates.

Telling the Date

For all ESL levels

Americans write and say dates differently from people in other countries. Do you know how to write and say dates correctly?

How to Write the Date

Americans always give the month first, the day second, and the year last. There are several different ways we can write it.

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

  • March 27, 2016
  • March 27th, 2016
  • 03/27/2016 or 03-27-2016
  • 3/27/16 or 3-27-16

You can use a slash (/) or a hyphen (-) between the numbers. There is no difference. When you write the name of the month, you must use a comma (,) after the date.

Sometimes, you will see instructions for writing the date that look like this:

MM/DD/YYYY

The M means month, the D means day, and the Y means year. If a website or form asks for a date like this, you should use two numbers for the month (01, 09, 11, etc.), two numbers for the date (07, 10, 29, etc.), and four numbers for the year (1982, 2016, etc.).

Sometimes the instructions look like this:

MM/DD/YY

Do you see the difference? In this case, you only use the LAST two numbers of the year – 82 (not 1982) or 16 (not 2016).

When you write the date in _ _ / _ _ / _ _ _ _ format, it is VERY important that you write the MONTH first and the DAY second.

How to Say the Date

Americans usually do not write “st,” “nd,” “rd,” or “th” (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.) on the date, but we ALWAYS say it. If you write, “3/27/2016,” you say, “March twenty-seventh, twenty-sixteen” (you can also say, “two thousand-sixteen”). Here is how we write and pronounce all the dates.

**We only add -st, -nd, -rd, and -th to the pronunciation of numbers in dates.**

photo by WTCC instructor ecparent

photo by WTCC instructor ecparent

  1. first
  2. second
  3. third
  4. fourth
  5. fifth
  6. sixth
  7. seventh
  8. eighth
  9. ninth
  10. tenth
  11. eleventh
  12. twelfth
  13. thirteenth
  14. fourteenth
  15. fifteenth
  16. sixteenth
  17. seventeenth
  18. eighteenth
  19. nineteenth
  20. twentieth
  21. twenty-first
  22. twenty-second
  23. twenty-third
  24. twenty-fourth
  25. twenty-fifth
  26. twenty-sixth
  27. twenty-seventh
  28. twenty-eighth
  29. twenty-ninth
  30. thirtieth
  31. thirty-first

When we say years, we usually say the first two numbers together and the last two numbers together. If the year is 1982, we say the first two numbers – nineteen – and the last two numbers – eighty-two.

  • 1980 – nineteen eighty
  • 1776 – seventeen seventy-six
  • 1430 – fourteen thirty
  • 2016 – twenty sixteen

If there are zeros in the middle of the year (2002), the rules change a little. Here is how we say 2000 years:

  • 2000 – two thousand
  • 2001 – two thousand one
  • 2002 – two thousand two

Here is how we say other years:

  • 1903 – nineteen oh three
  • 1409 – fourteen oh nine
  • 1207 – twelve oh seven
  • 1804 – eighteen oh four

Your Turn

Write and say the answers to these questions (search the internet or ask your teacher if you don’t know):

  1. When were you born?
  2. When did the United States become an independent country?
  3. When did Princess Diana die?
  4. When was Barack Obama born?
  5. When is Thanksgiving this year?
  6. When will Americans elect the next president?
  7. When is the last day of your class?
  8. What is today’s date?
  9. What is an important date in your life (wedding, birth of a child, when you moved to the U.S., etc.)?
  10. When was the last time you took a vacation?

Contractions for Beginners

For all levels, 1 and up.

Today, our topic is contractions. You see contractions every day. Do you understand them?

What is a contraction?

  • It’s
  • I’m
  • You’re

These words are contractions. A contraction is two words together in one word with an apostrophe (‘). An apostrophe looks like a comma at the top of a word. Here is the pronunciation of apostrophe.

Why do we use an apostrophe?

When we put two words together, we remove (take out) some letters. We use an apostrophe in the place of those letters.

  • It is –> It’s – We remove the “i” from “is” and put an apostrophe in that place.
  • We are –> We’re – We remove the “a” from “are” and put an apostrophe there.
  • I am –> I’m – We remove the “a” from “am” and put an apostrophe in its place.
image by WTCC instructor

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

How do you pronounce contractions?

We only say the letters we can see. We do not pronounce the letters we removed. When I say, “He is,” I pronounce the “i” in the word “is” because I can see it. When I say, “He’s,” I do not pronounce the “i” because it is not there.

Practice saying these contractions. Ask your teacher to help you.

  • I’m
  • He’s
  • She’s
  • It’s
  • You’re
  • We’re
  • They’re

Punctuation, is? Fun!

Why is punctuation important? Look at this paragraph. Is it correct?

Text from "Flowers for Algernon" by Daniel Keyes (Bantam, 1966, p. 28). Photo by JLF, 2014.

Text from “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes (Bantam, 1966, p. 28). Photo by JLF, 2014.

Definitely not!

English has a lot of punctuation marks.  Here are some examples:

.

period

?

question mark

!

exclamation point / exclamation mark

,

comma

apostrophe

:

colon

;

semi-colon

. . .

ellipsis

“    ”

double quotation marks

‘      ’

single quotation marks

dash

hyphen

(      )

parentheses

 

You can see examples with each punctuation mark (and more!) at this link.

Today we will look at four important marks:

. period

! exclamation point

? question mark

, comma

1. You use a PERIOD at the end of a sentence to stop that thought. Period = time to breathe. When you read aloud, the period tells you where to stop and breathe. The next letter (in the new sentence) is ALWAYS capital.

Today is Tuesday. tomorrow is Wednesday. (NO)

Today is Tuesday. Tomorrow is Wednesday. (YES)

 

2. You use an EXCLAMATION MARK to show emotion.

Yay! It’s Tuesday! I’m so happy!

 

3. You use a QUESTION MARK to ask a question. There is only one question mark in English, at the end of the sentence.

Is today Tuesday. (NO)

Is today Tuesday? (YES)

 

4. You use a COMMA for a lot of things.

-to write the date (Tuesday, April 29, 2014)

-to separate items in a list (bread, butter, and milk)

-to separate clauses (Maria ate dinner, got in her car, and went to class.)

You do NOT use a comma to join 2 complete sentences. You use a period.

I study English, I go to school every day. (NO)

I study English. I go to school every day. (YES)