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Il periodo ipotetico è formato da una proposizione principale e da una subordinata
che pone la condizione affinché quanto detto nella principale si verifichi.

La subordinata è generalmente introdotta da if, unless, ecc … e può precedere o

seguire la principale a seconda che le si voglia dare maggiore o minore rilievo.

Esistono 4 tipi fondamentali di periodo ipotetico:

subordinata principale
Tipo 0 if + simple present / past simple present / past If / when you pour boiling
water into a glass, it cracks.
Tipo 1 if + simple present future If you come, I’ll be happy
Tipo 2 if + simple past would If you came, I’d be happy
Tipo 3 if + past perfect would have If you had come, I’d have
been happy

All’interno di questi tipi fondamentali di periodo ipotetico si possono trovare varianti

di tempo e di modo. La forma progressiva può essere usata quando si vuole mettere
in evidenza lo svolgersi dell’azione.


Il periodo ipotetico di tipo 0 esprime verità universali o condizioni abituali. I tempi

usati nella frase principale e nella subordinata sono gli stessi e if può essere sostituito
da when:

If / when copper oxidizes, it becomes green.

In the 19th century people were imprisoned, if/when they didn’t pay their debts.


Il periodo ipotetico di tipo 1 esprime condizioni reali o probabili:

You’ll get a stomach ache, if you eat too much curry.

What will you do if it rains on the day of the excursion?


Si osservi la differenza tra condizione probabile e verità universale:

If you leave that bottle of milk out of the fridge, it will go bad. (condizione probabile)

If you leave milk out of the fridge, it goes bad. (condizione abituale)

Alcune varianti del tipo 1:

subordinata principale
Don’t wake him up if he is present progressive imperative

If you have already put on the present perfect future

kettle, I’ll make the tea.

If you’ve been travelling all night, present perfect continuous modal

you must be exhausted.

Should è spesso usato nel periodo ipotetico per attenuare l’idea di probabilità:

If you should decide to come, please let me know.


Il periodo ipotetico di tipo 2 esprime ipotesi poco probabili o immaginarie:

I’d buy shares in that company, if I had enough money.

If the earth didn’t turn on its axis, one half of the world would be in eternal night.

In questo tipo di periodo ipotetico è usato were per tutte le persone come congiuntivo
passato del verbo be: in linguaggio informale si può trovare anche was :

If I were you, I wouldn’t trust him.

If he was/were a better manager, his team might win the cup.

Alcune varianti del tipo 2

subordinata principale
I’d be touring Europe now, if I had a car simple past conditional
If you asked him, he might help you simple past

If he hadn’t left his family, he wouldn’t feel so past perfect

homesick now. present conditional

Should, usato nel periodo ipotetico del tipo 2, accentua l’idea di improbabilità:

If you should decide to come after all, I’d be delighted.

Should può essere sostituito da were to soprattutto quando è seguito da un verbo

d’azione. Were to è inoltre usato per dare un consiglio:

If you were to use a smaller screwdriver, I think you’d have less difficulty.

Would può essere usato in frase subordinata retta da if solo come verbo modale per
esprimere volontà, mai come condizionale:

I should be grateful if you would send me information about summer courses.


Il periodo ipotetico di tipo 3 esprime condizioni irreali riferite a situazioni passate:

He would have stopped, if he had realized that the traffic lights were red.

If I had lived in the Middle Ages, I would have been an alchemist.

Alcune varianti del tipo 3:

subordinata principale
If you hadn’t been driving so fast, the past perfect continuous past conditional
accident would never have occurred.

He would have been a very good modal past conditional

architect, if he could have gone to

Nel periodo ipotetico le frasi subordinate possono essere introdotte, oltre che da if, da
espressioni come: provided (that), providing (that), so long as, on condition that,

Supposing, suppose e imagine sono usati per lo più con frasi del tipo 2 e 3.

I’ll be going now, unless you want to ask me anything else.

Imagine / suppose the world were going to end tomorrow: what would you do?

In linguaggio formale le frasi subordinate con should, were, had possono essere
espresse invertendo l’ordine soggetto / verbo ed eliminando if :

Should you decide to consider the possibility of a discount please let us know as
soon as possible.

Had she taken more time to think, she might have acted more sensibly

Were it not for the expense involved, I would accept your proposal.

Complete the following sentences by inserting the verbs either in the present or future

1. If we _______________________ the next train we

______________________ before midday. (take – arrive)
2. If you _________________________ them you
_________________________ the truth. (not ask – never learn)
3. If you __________________________ the medicine you
__________________ ___________ (not take – not get better)
4. If you _________________________ water it __________________________
into ice. (freeze – turn)
5. He ____________________________ allowed to leave early today if he
______ _____________________ later tomorrow (be – stay)
6. There _________________________ always plenty to do if my mother
______________________ (be – go away)
7. They have told her that if she ____________________________ this film they
__________________________________ her contract (do – renew)
8. If you _______________________ that cut untreated it
___________________ ____________ infected (leave – become)
9. If you ____________________________ cuts untreated they easily
__________ infected in this climate. (leave – become)
10.If you ____________________________ him for help he always ___________
________ it (ask – give)

Translate the following sentences:

1. Se Tom ha viaggiato tutta la notte, stasera non vorrà uscire.

2. Se hanno sentito del dirottamento saranno preoccupati per noi.
3. Se ha ricevuto il messaggio ci starà aspettando.
4. A che ora arriveranno se la strada tra le 2 e le 5 del pomeriggio sarà chiusa al
traffico ?
5. Se Roger si candiderà per le prossime elezioni, lo voteranno molte persone.

For each of the following sentences write a new one using the information in italics.

e.g. Peter doesn’t see what you are doing be

If Peter saw what you are/were doing he would be furious

1. George doesn’t know how dangerous that boat is. not set sail
If____________________________ he_____________________________
2. Gail doesn’t get good results. work
Gail _________________________ if ______________________________
3. I am not rich. buy this
If ____________________________I_______________________________
4. I’ll write to them. be
______________ they _____________ if ___________________________ ?
5. The actors aren’t good. be more
If ________________________ the play ____________________________
6. I’m not the Prime Minister. reduce income
I _____________________________ if I___________________________
7. Sue isn’t here now. what
Sam do?
What __________________________ if Sue ________________________ ?

8. You haven’t lived here long enough. understand our

If ______________________________ you
9. You have to sleep alone in an isolated house. be
_____________ you _____________ if you
___________________________ ?
10.You are in love with someone else. tell
___________ you ____________ if you _____________________________?

For each of the following sentences write a new one starting with the words given.

e.g. You made such a noise that you woke your baby sister up.

If you hadn’t made so much noise you wouldn’t have woken your baby sister up.

1. We didn’t try to negotiate and the enemy attacked.

If we _____________________________ the enemy
2. They took their canoes down the river because they didn’t know how
dangerous it was.
They ____________________________ if they
3. You didn’t take the car to the garage when I told you to, so the car broke down.
If you _______________________________ it _________________________
4. I didn’t meet you at the station because you didn’t tell me you were coming.
I ________________________________ if you
5. We’ve taken the wrong road, that’s why we haven’t arrived yet.
If we ____________________________ we _______________________ by
6. We took a wrong way because we didn’t have a map.
We _______________________________ if we ________________________
7. I didn’t recognize him because he had grown a beard.
I __________________________________ if he
8. I was so late that we didn’t stay till the end of the concert.

We ___________________________________ if it _____________________
9. The tyres weren’t in good condition and so the car skidded on the wet asphalt.
The car ____________________________ if the tyres
10.There was a full moon so it was easy to find our way back.
If _______________________________ it ____________________________

Should and would can be used in if clauses with the meaning of respectively “by any
chance/happen to” or “be willing to/agree to”. Rewrite the sentences below replacing
the expressions underlined with either should or would

1. If by any chance you see Mike remember to tell him I won’t be at the meeting
2. We would be very grateful if you agreed to grant us a delay in payment.
3. If by some unlucky chance the situation became critical, we would leave
4. I’d be grateful if you were willing to inform your bank of the mistake.
5. If anybody happens to find a pink cat with a green collar, please phone 034-
6. If they were willing to accept our proposal it would be an advantage for both
our companies.
7. If only you were willing to listen to what I say, you would solve a lot of your
present problems.
8. If this flight happened to be cancelled we would have to wait till tomorrow
9. Even if he happened to know the truth, what would happen?.
10.I don’t think things would change if by any chance the opposition came to

Rewrite the following sentences with if

1. Had anybody told me he was going to become a scientist I wouldn’t have

believed it.
2. Should your temperature go up again, take two of these tablets.
3. Had I know in advance they were coming I would have waited for them
4. Should any problem arise, don’t hesitate to contact us.
5. Were the Government to take more drastic measure the situation could get out
of control.

Translate each of the following sentences in the two possible ways (with and without

1. Se fosse mio figlio lo incoraggerei a studiare musica.

2. Se la casa fosse stata un più a sinistra, sarebbe stata spazzata via dalla valanga.
3. Se un tale evento dovesse verificarsi, passeremmo subito all’azione.