Keith Kelly looks at examples of the language of hypothesis, prediction and conditions from the area of geography, covering common structures and lexical phrases.

Common structures

Predicting with a greater degree of certainty

If … happens, … will:
If the population continues to increase at this pace, it will double in less than 20 years.

As … happens, (then) … will/may happen:
As a country’s economy develops, its population will grow very slowly at first, but will then grow rapidly later and may finally stop growing.

When … happens, (then) … will happen:
When the magma cools, it will form igneous rock within the crust.

Because … happens, (then) … will happen:
Because the resources are used at a faster rate than they are replaced, they will be run down to levels at which they become of little use to people.

Predicting with a lesser degree of certainty

If … happens, … may / might / can / could happen (possibility):

  • If a cave erodes all the way through a headland, an arch may form.
  • If many vehicles pass over the sand dunes throughout the year, this can greatly reduce vegetation cover.
  • If greenhouse gases continue to accumulate at their present rate, the earth’s temperature could rise by around 3ºC in the 21st century. Health problems could increase in temperate latitudes as tropical diseases might spread to these regions due to higher summer temperatures.

If … happened, … would happen (probability):
If cultural regions were based only on language, they would be relatively easy to define.

Assuming … happened, … would happen (probability):
Assuming working hours were reduced, the cost of manufacturing would increase.

If … had happened, … would have happened (speculation about the past):
If a similar mudflow had hit a town in a rich country, fewer homes would have been destroyed.

Predicting using a negative construction

Unless … happens, … will not happen / … will not happen, unless … happens:
Unless more oil is found, or energy use is controlled, the world’s oil supply will not last beyond the end of the 21st century.
The population of the island will not be evacuated unless there is a real perceived threat from the active volcano.

If / When … does not happen, … will happen / … will not happen:
If the rain does not fall, it will cause drought, crop failure and famine.
When the tide comes in beyond the markers, the fishermen will not be able to lay their nets.

Common lexical phrases

Whether … happens depends on … / … happening requires … (entails, calls for, demands, needs):
Whether river erosion happens quickly or slowly depends on hardness of rock, volume of water and river speed.
Maximising a crop harvest demands a lot of forward planning and preparation and calls for a certain amount of pure luck.

A requirement (condition / prerequisite / necessity) for … to happen is … / One of the conditions for … is …:
Conditions for effective distribution (to happen) include access to wide, well-surfaced routes, and airports or ports.
One of the conditions for effective distribution is access to wide, well-surfaced routes, and airports or ports.

For … to happen, … is essential (necessary/crucial/vital):
For rice to grow effectively, waterlogged conditions are essential.