Is it possible to use modals in the if-clause?

Dear all,
I would be thankful if anybody could elaborate a little on if+I can /will/ must/ could .

A rather vague question, Muin. If + modal is certainly possible. Is there a specific sentence that troubles you?

Thank you for your fast reply . Some grammar books stress that modals can not be used in the if clause and this cause some difficulty for our students

Hmm that sounds like nonsense: modal verbs are often used in if clauses, as MM said. They may be used in different ways, though. Some examples might help.

  • I will join you, if I may.
  • He would help you if he could.
  • We should be leaving now, if only he would make more haste.
  • She’d certainly help me if there should be any complications.

Thank you Cerberus™
But it doesn’t look nonsense to me .You are still off the track.We use different modals for different moods but I am not a native English speaker and if you come across a rule which says ," Never use ‘would’ in the if-clause " . Why ‘would’ particularly?
Next time , could you please slow down before judging if it is “NONSENSE” or not ?!

I think it is you that are being rude, Muin. Look at your original question:


You did not even express an interest in ‘would’ at that time.

Mr Micawber.The language Coach.
English language teach people good conduct and how to behave but not how to swear!
This is an insult which I absolutely refuse and throw it back at you. I am not rude .You know well that people who insult others for no reason are really RUDE. I am not rude .You are more than rude .I didn’t start it.
Is asking for cooperation between teachers means being rude? Is “nonsense” which is said by Cerberus rude or not ? Be fair and be more responsible for your position . How dare you say that to me ! Do you realise what you are doing ? Shame on you! You should apologise or I will understand that you are the wrong man in the wrong place .

Okay Muin, calm down. My “nonsense” was not directed at you, but at this book you referred to. I will take it back and say “not true” instead if that pleases you, all right? I could be so polite as to say that the book was right, but then I’d be lying.

About “would” in if clauses: as you could see in my examples, it is possible. But I will grant that it is rare. Your book probably warns against it because people often mistakenly say “if he would” in simple conditional constructions. The normal construction for an unreal conditional construction is this:
- If he were rich, he would buy himself a younger wife.
As you can see, we have “would” in the main clause, and the past subjunctive in the if clause; many people would make the mistake of putting “would” both in the main clause and in the if clause, which would be wrong. That is why you were warned against “would”, you see?

Dear Cerberus.
First . I’d like to express my gratitude for your explanation .I only was trying to find a way to convince my students . Secondly,I am sorry for my harsh language but I think you should excuse me for there was some misunderstanding .I never scratch people’s feelings untill they scratch mine . I am not violent but the way was as tough as a blow on me.
OK , the book is called " English grammar in Use " by Richard Murphy. I already know that we can use modals in our spoken and even in written language but the problem is with the rule and the level of "clever " students who jump over to expand their knowledge . I do not want any contradiction in my teaching so I try hard to satisfy my Ss’ needs. For that reason I wanted to share your experience .
Thank you once more .You have been great help.
P.S. Your words made me cool you really really are a nice person.

I know how hard it is not to contradict yourself when teaching. I have only two pieces of advice there:

  1. Try to never make absolute statements. When I teach children rules, I often give them an estimate of how reliable the rule is. I say, “if you find an inanimate noun in Latin ending on -o, you have a 2/3 chance that it will be in the ablative”, or “if you read ‘the lion has escaped’, you have a 95% chance that the lion has not been caught yet” etc… Often “a very high chance” will do. Teach them that language is never made of hard facts.
    Or I will just tell them, “although there might be exceptions, this is the way I want you to learn it, because this is the way you will be tested”.

  2. Whenever you contradict yourself, say “oh, well, it appears there are exceptions to the rule I taught you earlier; annoying, isn’t it, how irregular the English language is”, sometimes preceded by some expletives. It is always a good thing to shift the blame.

Oh, and thank you for your compliment, apology excepted. You know, you’d make me really happy if you also took back some of the harsh words you spoke to MM. Please?

Ok I wil . Just give some time