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Is the expression "if there are tickets available, I would like to buy one" correct? In case it is, which type of conditional would be?

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  • What do you mean by "Which type of conditional"? There is only one type of conditional as far as I know. Do you mean past vs. conditional?
    – Karlomanio
    Commented May 7, 2019 at 14:13
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    There are four types of conditionals, recognized by the verb tenses and differentiated by the likelihood of the outcomes they represent. Commented May 7, 2019 at 14:16
  • If there were tickets available , I would like to buy one ( conditional sentence type 2 or present unreal ) if there are tickets available, I will like to buy one ( conditional sentence type 1) each of the sentences above gets across different concept. The structure that you used in the sentence in question seems a bit unnatural to me.as far as I know ," would" usually comes with past tense not present.
    – Lara
    Commented May 7, 2019 at 14:39
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    The modal verb "would like" is present tense, even though "would" is the past tense of "will." Consider: if you want ice cream right now, do you say "I will like ice cream" or "I would like ice cream"? Commented May 7, 2019 at 15:02
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    @Karlmanio, as I understand it, conditionals are one of the things meant to teach English language learners something that native speakers learn over time. It's somewhat controversial...for good reason.
    – KannE
    Commented May 7, 2019 at 15:04

2 Answers 2

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"Would like" here is a set phrase (a politer substitute for "want"). It doesn't imply conditionality. If you say "I would like a cup of tea", people won't ask "under what circumstances?".

EFL/ESL teaching presents a series of numbered conditionals. The usefulness of this classification is disputed, but (as many readers know):

  • The first conditional involves an "if" clause in the present tense and a result clause expressing a future, e.g. "If tickets are available, I will buy them." It disucsses a potential future.
  • The second conditional involves an "if" clause in the simple past and a result clause with "would", e.g. "If tickets were available, I would buy them." It discusses an unreal or hypothetical event.
  • The third conditional involves an "if" clause in the past perfect and a result clause with "would" + perfect, e.g. "If tickets had been available, I would have bought them." It discusses an unreal past, a hypothetical past that didn't come about.
  • There are also mixed conditionals.
  • The "zero conditional" has the present tense in both clauses, e.g. "If water boils, it turns to steam" or "If tickets are available, I want some".

In the sentence

If tickets are available, I would like to buy them

there may appear at first glance to be a mismatch between the present tense of the "if" clause and the use of "would" in the result clause. But there isn't, because "I would like" is a set phrase that simply means "I want".

So, while there are undoubtedly many sentences where English speakers will use a conditional sentence that doesn't fit the canonical patterns, this isn't a genuine example. "I would like" should be regarded as equivalent to the present time, so both clauses have verbs in the present, making it a zero conditional (albeit not the classic kind of zero conditional, which is said to express a general truth!).

There are, though, sentences where "would like" instead expresses a contingent or conditional liking, and here the conditional structure is more likely to follow the canonical patterns ("I would like it if you scratched my back").

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Yes, that is a correct sentence.

This is a first-type conditional, since "are" is a present tense verb and refers to a future outcome that is certain or likely.

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