Conditional structures that begin If + present tense offer lots of possibilities for interesting tasks, presentations or practice activities. Here are a few ideas.

If you meet a wolf …

Conditional structures that begin If + present tense … (e.g. “If you meet a wolf, run!” or “If you do that, I’ll never speak to you again!”) are often used for making warnings, threats and promises. They offer lots of possibilities for interesting tasks, presentations or practice activities. Here are a few ideas:

Dangerous results

  1. Give one student a warning about some small, insignificant action e.g. “If you drop your pen, it’ll break.”
  2. Invite learners to continue by taking the second half of your warning and creating a new warning e.g. “If your pen breaks, you won’t be able to do your exam.”
  3. Once this sentence is established, elicit the next warning - becoming bigger and stranger as they go on e.g. “If you can’t do your exam, you’ll have to leave school.” etc.
  4. At the end, see if learners working in pairs can recall the whole chain of warnings - starting from that one small initial action.
  5. Pairs should then create their own chain starting from a new warning.

Star warnings

  1. Ask the class to work in groups. Each group thinks of a famous story they all know - e.g. a fairy story such as Red Riding Hood or a film such as Star Wars.
  2. Ask each group to think through the story and imagine what warnings they could give the characters at various points in the story - e.g. “If you meet a wolf, run!” or “If you can’t see your granny, phone the police.”
  3. When ready, pairs of groups meet up and say only their warnings; the other group must guess what the original story was.
  4. When both groups have heard all the warnings they should invent a completely new story for which all the warnings apply.

Promises promises

  1. Say that you have a million pounds to give someone (you could show them a few pretend 'banknotes') and you will give it to the person who persuades you best.
  2. Teach them the sentence structure: “If you give me a million pounds, I’ll …” and then let the learners take it in turns to try and persuade you.
  3. Award the 'cash' to the best or funniest promise.

Recognizing the function

Write warnings, threats, promises on the board. Check that students know what each heading means. Say some if sentences aloud with appropriate (slightly exaggerated) intonation. Learners must decide which are threats, promises or warnings.

Warning noises

  1. Select five or six interesting “Be careful … “ warning sentences e.g. “If you eat that, it’ll poison you.”
  2. Ask students to decide where the main stresses are in each sentence. Then offer a strong model of intonation for giving warnings.
  3. Get students to experiment saying these in pairs, then stand up and mingle (i.e. walk around, meeting others).
  4. Every time they meet another learner they give a warning. (If it works, it’ll be noisy!).
  5. When they’ve had enough, ask learners to write new warnings they could give people. When ready, repeat the mingling activity.