How to Teach Conditionals

Today’s Feature Post is by Ruth Breindel, Classics Teacher at Moses Brown School in Providence, RI and CANE’s current Treasurer.
Textbooks make a big deal out of conditionals, spending many chapters and thoroughly confusing students! I have a much simpler method, which explains it easily.
Here is the explanation that I hand out:

Simple: indicative in both halves (any tense, but usually present and future)
 1. Si amicus est, bene est: if he is my friend, it is good.
 2. Si amicus erit, bene erit: if he will be my friend, it will be good.
Should/Would: present subjunctive in both halves
 1. Si amicus sit, bene sit: if he should be my friend, it would be good
Contrary to Fact: imperfect or pluperfect subjunctive
 1. Si amicus esset, bene esset: if he were my friend, it would be good
 2. Si amicus fuisset, bene fuisset: if he had been my friend, it would have been good
Here are some exercises I give my students for practice (see below for instructions and an accompanying PowerPoint.
 English Type
1. If she arrives, I will be happy.
2. If she were to arrive, I would be happy.
3. If she had arrived, I would have been happy.
4. If she should arrive, I would be happy.
 Latin Type
1. Si id munies, venient.
2. Si id munias, veniant.
3. Si id munivisses, venissent.
4. Si id munires, venirent.
5. Si hoc intellegeretis, sapientes essetis.
6. Si hoc intellegetis, sapientes eritis.
7. Si hoc intellegissetis, sapientes fuissetis.
8. Si hoc intellegatis, sapientes sitis.
9. Si veniet, discedam.
10. Si venisset, discessissem.
11. Si veniat, discedam.
12. Si veniret, discederem.
How to use it:
Double space the sentences (I did it this way to take up less room for you!) and hand them out to the students.
Go over the 3 types. We know that students have no idea that “were” is a subjunctive, and should/would is almost unheard of in normal speech. Therefore, after doing the English version, go to the PowerPoint version.
PowerPoint: put on your sound, since there is some sound for 2 slides. See if any student recognizes the nursery rhyme about “if wishes were horses…” etc. I bet they don’t!
Now come back to the English sentences 1-5. Explain the “tip offs” for the various types: had/would have, should/would, etc.
Now do the Latin sentences. Emphasize that if there’s a present subjunctive in both halves, it’s should/would; if there’s an imperfect or pluperfect subjunctive in both halves, it’s a contrary to fact; if there’s no subjunctive, then it’s a simple if/then sentence.

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