The Wizarding Guide to Conditional Sentences

Conditional Sentences

  • If I don’t read every day, I get very grumpy.
  • If I read Harry Potter enough, I’ll surely receive my acceptance letter to Hogwarts.
  • If I hadn’t read the entire series multiple times, I wouldn’t be able to write this article about wizardry and the types of conditional sentences.
  • Unless you have something against magic, you should enjoy reading this post as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.

Not only do the above sentences show how nerdy (read: awesome) I am, but they are also all conditional sentences. In fact, they demonstrate all four types of conditional sentences: the real conditional, the unreal conditional, the mixed conditional, and the special conditional. Cool, right?

Okay, so I know that learning about conditional sentences isn’t exactly as exciting as, say, Quidditch. And believe me, if I could wave my wand (11.5-inch beechwood with a unicorn hair core, in case you were wondering) and magically put this knowledge in your head, I would. However, if Harry Potter has taught me anything, it’s that people cannot be taught unless they are willing to learn. And that, my friend, is why you shall have to take up your own study of the types of conditional sentences—with my help, of course. And yes, you do have to call me “Professor.”

What Is a Conditional Sentence?

A conditional sentence describes something that is a condition for something else. That is, for one thing to occur, the other must have occurred first. Conditionals often, though not always, begin with if, like these:

If I fail Potions, I won’t be able to become an Auror.

If Snape weren’t so scary, I wouldn’t do so poorly in Potions.

Not all conditional sentences begin with if. In some examples, the conditional portion of the sentence actually occurs in the second part of the sentence. In these cases, no comma is required.

You should try out for the Seeker position if you want to play Quidditch.

Meet Harry at the pitch when you’re done Herbology class.

That wasn’t so hard, right? Learning about conditional sentences is as easy as Wingardium Leviosa—just remember to use the swish and flick, and you’ll have it down in no time! Now on to slightly more complicated spells—er, I mean, grammar rules.

Real and Unreal Conditionals

Conditionals can be real or unreal. That is, they can describe an event that has happened or is likely to happen, or they can describe an event that has not happened and is not likely to happen. Here are some examples of real conditionals.

I feel happy when I read Harry Potter.

If someone borrows my copy of The Philosopher’s Stone, that person must promise to return it within a week.

Here are some unreal conditional sentences:

If I were an Animagus, I would definitely transform into an owl.

If Rowling hadn’t written the Harry Potter books, the world would have been a less magical place.

The first example is an unreal conditional because I am not, in fact, an Animagus, and sadly, I have no hope of becoming one. The second is an unreal conditional because Rowling did write the Harry Potter books (thank goodness!).

Mixed Conditionals

A mixed conditional sentence is one that occurs when the two clauses—the if clause and the main clause—occur in two different time periods. A mixed conditional may be saying that an event that is currently occurring will cause a future event, or it may be saying that an event that has already happened is affecting a current event. These examples should help make things a bit clearer.

If you’ve ever been in a tangle with Devil’s Snare, you know how unwise it is to struggle against the plant’s constriction.

If I had attended Hogwarts like I was supposed to, I would probably be a Transfiguration professor by now.

It should be noted that like other types of conditional sentences, mixed conditionals can be either real or unreal. The above examples could be classified as either real or unreal, depending on how seriously you take your favorite fictional universes.

Special Conditionals

Of all the types of conditional sentences, special conditionals are probably the trickiest to understand. Special conditionals describe events that can only occur if something else happens first. There are five common forms of special conditional sentences: unless, whether (or not), even if/even though, only if/if only, if so/if not.

Confused? Fair enough. Allow me to shed some Lumos on special conditionals with these brief explanations and examples:

Unless: The event will not occur except under a set of specified conditions. The condition is an exception to what is otherwise the rule.

Harry would not have been able to conjure a Patronus charm unless Professor Lupin had taught him how.

Whether / Or Not: Whether is used in the place of if when there is more than one option, and or not comes into play when one of the options is the opposite of the other. Whether means that, regardless of the options, the same course of action will be taken.

Whether he wins or dies, Harry will still be upset that someone entered him in the Triwizard Tournament.

Whether it’s right or not, Harry can’t help but have a crush on Ginny.

Even If / Even Though: Even if means that, regardless of the existence of the condition, the outcome of the event will not change. Even though means that the condition certainly does exist, but it still will not affect the outcome of the event.

I will remain loyal to Professor Dumbledore even if no one else is.

I will remain loyal to Professor Dumbledore even though he is dead.

Only If / If Only: The first phrase places an emphasis on the special condition that must be met for an event to occur. If only is used in an unreal conditional to express wishes or regrets.

Ron agrees that Harry can date Ginny only if they keep the snogging to a minimum.

If only I had been born after 1998, I would certainly have received my Hogwarts acceptance letter.

If So / If Not: This type of conditional sentence features a shortened if clause that is used because the condition has already been mentioned.

Gilderoy Lockhart is supposed to be signing autographs today. If so, Flourish and Blotts is going to be very busy.

I hope I have time to buy a new broomstick. If not, I’ll have to borrow someone else’s for now.

Conclusion

And that, dear student, concludes my lesson on the different types of conditional sentences. If you think that using Harry Potter to learn about grammar is as cool as taking down a mountain troll, you might want to check out these Harry Potter-themed articles on homophones, comma usage, interrogative sentences, subject–verb agreement, ellipses, exclamatory sentences, and pronouns.

If you’d like to learn about the other kinds of sentences, check out Inklyo’s newest ebook, The Complete Guide to Sentence Structure, on Amazon or at your local Flourish and Blotts.

Image source: Eirik_Raudi/Pixabay.com

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