Oops! Look at all those broken eggs! …Well, if they hadn’t stacked the cartons so high, this wouldn’t have happened. Right? And if shoppers didn’t have to open each carton to check for broken eggs, they could just take a carton from the top.
A good photo can prompt a number of conditional sentences, especially about what could have happened or what shouldn’t have happened. If you think this photo would launch a good review session of unreal conditionals, then please check out my unreal-conditionals_handout.
On the heels of studying as if/as though/ like statements, I have a new lesson on unreal conditionals planned for one of my private students. It’s not the first time I’ve worked with an upper level student who gets by just fine, but still makes minor grammar mistakes on points never fully mastered. My student lacks confidence and accuracy when making sentences with if. Just which verb forms are needed? The real or likely conditionals are relatively easy to manage. But I find that a good amount of controlled practice is necessary to solidify the patterns for unreal conditionals in the present or past.
Shifting to freer language production becomes even more fun. The possible topics for this grammar point are many. In one of my practice items I make a reference to the Titanic. Imagine if the captain had known about that big iceberg. That practice item could be a jumping off point for discussion. In fact, any historical tragedy could provide engaging content for speaking or writing. First of all, adult learners usually have enough background knowledge to tap into. Second, the distance in time makes it less uncomfortable than a more recent world tragedy. Some events to talk about include the sinking of the Titanic, the Hindenburg disaster, and the destruction of Pompei.
Another possible direction to head in is any major turning point in human civilization. In my handout, one practice item refers to space exploration. If we hadn’t begun to explore space in the 20th century, just how advanced would our knowledge be today? What other events or achievements are significant? This could be the basis of a short writing assignment.
Got any more ideas for practicing unreal conditionals? Feel free to share them.