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We have been traveling a lot recently. For some reason, that seems to make us accutely aware of the widespread and interesting usage of the conditional tense. This sparked an idea for a new blog post, so here goes …

conditional: Grammar. (of a sentence, clause, mood, or word) involving or expressing a condition, as the first clause in the sentence If it rains, he won’t go.

We like this explanation from LEO Network:

The conditional tense says that an action is reliant on something else. The two most common conditionals are real and unreal, they are sometimes called if-clauses.

The real conditional (often named 1st Conditional or Conditional Type I) describes situations based on fact.

The unreal conditional (often named 2nd Conditional or Conditional Type II) describes unreal or imaginary situations.

There is also what we call the 3rd conditional (often named Conditional Type III), used to express no possibility of something having happened in the past, and the 0 conditional (often called the zero conditional), used to express absolute certainty.

Unless you are studying English to pass an exam or test don’t try to remember the types, just learn the structure so that you know how to express the meaning conveyed by each type.

Note! If the ‘if’ clause comes first, a comma is usually used. If the “if” clause comes second, there is no need for a comma.”

We mentioned “interesting usage.” Take a look at the following examples and have a chuckle:

In a restaurant, have you ever heard your server say something like this?   
  If you need anything, my name is …That’s great. However, what is your name if I don’t need anything?
  If you’re ready to order, I’ll be over there …So, if I’m not ready to order, where will you be?
When conversing with friends or colleagues …  
  If I don’t see you, have a good trip/holiday/weekend …Alright, if you do see me, do you want me to have a bad time?
On an airplane …  
  If you are unfamiliar with the (insert almost any airport name here) airport, there is a diagram in the in-flight magazine …This one is puzzling … we are very familiar with the mentioned airport. Is there still a diagram in the magazine?

Now, IF you have other examples to share, please feel free to comment!

Sources: Dictionary.com, Learn English, American Airlines Flight Attendant announcements.

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A reader writes:

“Should I use ‘then‘ or ‘than‘ in this sentence? What is a hotter ticket ____ a ticket for the Elton John concert …”

Another reader wtires:

“I tell folks that ‘then‘ is time-related (‘back then‘ or ‘then we did that’); ‘than‘ is used to compare things (‘better than‘).”

This is a good tip.

We could really have fun and mess with the original question, thinking back to a wonderful time in music, by saying:

“What was a hotter ticket then than a ticket for the Elton John concert?”

We still follow the rule … using then to refer to time and than to compare.

Now, how about this little helpful tip/trick: Then rhymes with when (refers to time). Than has an a in it and so does compare.

then. adverb.
1. at that time: Prices were lower then. 
2. immediately or soon afterward: The rain stopped and then started again. 
3. next in order of time: We ate, then we started home. 
4. at the same time: At first the water seemed blue, then gray. 
5. next in order of place: Standing beside Charlie is my uncle, then my cousin, then my brother. 
6. in addition; besides; also: I love my job, and then it pays so well. 
7. in that case; as a consequence; in those circumstances: If you’re sick, then you should stay in bed. 
8. since that is so; as it appears; therefore: You have, then, found the mistake? You are leaving tonight then. 

then. adjective.
9. being; being such; existing or being at the time indicated: the then prime minister. 

then. noun
10. that time: We have not been back since then. Till then, farewell. 

than. conjunction
1. (used, as after comparative adjectives and adverbs, to introduce the second member of an unequal comparison): She’s taller than I am. 
2. (used after some adverbs and adjectives expressing choice or diversity, such as other, otherwise, else, anywhere, or different, to introduce an alternative or denote a difference in kind, place, style, identity, etc.): I had no choice other than that. You won’t find such freedom anywhere else than in this country. 
3. (used to introduce the rejected choice in expressions of preference): I’d rather walk than drive there. 
4. except; other than: We had no choice than to return home. 
5. when: We had barely arrived than we had to leave again. 

than. preposition
6. in relation to; by comparison with (usually fol. by a pronoun in the objective case): He is a person than whom I can imagine no one more courteous.

Source: Dictionary.com (see usage note)

UPDATE: We found this paragraph on a wikiHow article. It needs a “than” in place of an “as” because the writer is making a comparison. Take a look.

(click here for the real story)

“A recumbent bike is any bike where the rider is in a reclined position. These bikes are more comfortable to ride (once you get used to it!) and faster because of reduced wind resistance. However, there’s a bit of a learning curve when it comes to balancing, starting, stopping and maneuvering a recumbent bike (as there is with an upright bike) but once you nail it down, you’ll wonder why more people aren’t riding them!”

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