1
  1. If I were a bird, I could fly to you. We change am into were in the if clause as that won't happen, which a book tells.

Therefore, I learned that if the sentence in the if clause is something which never happens, I need to change the verb into past tense.

But I have a question.

Is it only when it never happens to change the verb into past tense?

Or can you change the verb into past tense when you are not sure if it will happen.

For example

  1. I don't know if this bus goes to the shopping mall. But if it went there, I might want to take it.

  2. I don't know if he gets over a cold. But if he got over, he could come join us.

I think they should be "if it goes-" and " if he gets over-", though.

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The OP is right - the sentences should be as follows:

If it goes there, I may want to take it.

If he gets over, he can come and join us.

The OP doesn't know whether or not the situation is true. It means that it's certainly not a nonfactual or impossible situation. On the contrary, it's a possible situation. So you use the conditional type 1 sentence, in which if-clause is usually in the present.

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In terms of probability, conditionals in English fall in three categories (some say four):

1- A thing that has 100% chance of happening (Probable/possible) The structure for this case is

if ...Simple Present.. , ...Will/may(modal in present form not tense) + Infinitive verb...

ex: If he goes to Newyork I will (may etc.) go with him.

2- A thing that has 50% chance of happening (improbable)

If ...Simple Past..., ....would (might etc) + infinitive verb .....

ex: If I won a lottery , I would share it with my friends.

3- A thing that has 0% chance of happening (unreal/impossible)

If ...past perfect...., I would (might etc) present perfect ....

If I had won the lottery , I would have shared it with you.

Now to answer your question "Is it only when it never happens to change the verb into past tense?"

The answer is : Yes when a thing has no chance of happening you chose from the second or third cases depending on the degree.

I don't know if this bus goes to the shopping mall. But if it went there, I might want to take it The second case is perfect for the application if you know deep down that there's a chance this bus does not go. So the going maybe improbable but not impossible. Also we are not sure that it is 100% possible.

I don't know if he gets over a cold. But if he got over, he could come join us. The same thing goes for the cold. It's improbable but not impossible so if he recovered, he could come.

For information consult this page: http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/Grammar/conditional2.htm

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    The good thing is that you included a source in your answer. But I dont think your answer reflect the source. – user178049 Jan 21 '17 at 9:33
  • My answer is my answer. The reference is for further information. Thanks for the interaction. – M K Jan 21 '17 at 9:37
  • You're welcome. But I think zero conditional is a better option if it has 100% chance to happen. If you heat water until 100 °c, it boils. :) – user178049 Jan 21 '17 at 9:45
  • That's why i said (some say four). Zero conditional is an exception of the first case where the second part loses the modal. Even in the reference I attached they categorize in three only. The system I explained is not my opinion. – M K Jan 21 '17 at 9:46

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