I invented the idea of imagining the four English conditionals as a family while working at a language school in Poland. I hit upon the idea of making each conditional one member of the family. The aim was to make learning the conditionals less abstract – and easier to understand – by showing the nature of each one, and so suggesting the kind of situations that students could use them in.
First conditional is the mum – practical and conscientious, busily focused on the short-term future of her family; second conditional is the teenage daughter – dreaming about the future and considering the best options in terms of studying, finding a boyfriend, getting a job, moving out of her parents’ home, and so on; third conditional is the middle-aged dad – dour and with his head in the past, thinking about what could have been if… if he’d made better decisions somewhere down the line, like if he had married Doreen – his first crush; finally, zero conditional is their young son, who is obsessed with learning new facts and with his reality in the here and now: ‘If I fall off my bike it really hurts!’
The five worksheets that resulted from these lessons with the Conditional Family represent a set of materials that I’m really pleased with. It was one of those cases when the end product was just how I had imagined it at the beginning of the project. You can download the worksheets below – they come complete with answer pages. There is also a podcast from around the same period (below), which may give some useful tips on teaching conditionals.
I guess I modelled the Conditional Family on the standard nuclear family: mum, dad, teenage daughter, boy. I gave them names for the worksheets. I took inspiration from my wife for Ferne Conditional (1st). She is certainly somebody who is very much focused on the here and now and the immediate future. She tries to organise everybody and she knows what is going on and when it should start and how long – exactly – it should last; on the other hand, it is impossible trying to talk to her about booking a holiday for six months’ time! I’m more like Herb Conditional (3rd) – thinking about the past and wondering what if… what if I had got that French A’Level? What if the teachers hadn’t kept going on strike at such a critical moment in my education? Becca (2nd) and Nero (zero) are a bit more stereotypical. You might find the whole family stereotypical – in which case you are welcome to create your own characters based on the conditionals. I suppose that from The Simpsons to Family Guy, via Modern Family and (in the UK) My Family we are used to the family stereotypes, and hopefully they help to make the point about each conditional in a way that a boring grammar lesson wouldn’t.
If you are really cool you could introduce Ferne’s older brother – uncle to the kids – who is called Mick, and talk about the often baffling to students topic of Mick’s Conditionals – or, I should say, mixed conditionals. You know, the one where the first clause is past (e.g. past perfect from 3rd) and the second is would + infinitive (from 2nd). Something in the past affects the present or future. For example:
If I had remembered to bring the tickets we would be watching the play by now.
Why not get your students to design and draw a comic strip or create a role play / film using the conditional characters and their various situations? You could give a prize for the best one!
Here is the free stuff – hope you enjoy it! If you do, why not make my day by leaving me a message on Facebook and liking my page – and please don’t forget to tell your friends about PurlandTraining.com. Thanks. 🙂
Free podcast (MP3, 30 MB) – Get to Know… the Conditional Family:
Free worksheets (PDF):
Note: to download a PDF file, click the downward arrow at the bottom of each file