Inverted Conditionals

What is an inverted conditional?

Although conditional clauses are often called if-clauses, they don’t always include the word if! In more formal situations, we use a technique called inversion where we reverse the order of the subject and the verb. These clauses are known as inverted conditionals or sometimes reduced conditionals.

Read on to learn more about inverted conditionals in English grammar, then put your knowledge to the test in the exercises.

Example

Dear valued guest,

We would like to apologise for the issues during your stay here at the Parliament House Hotel.

Naturally, had we known about the bed bug infestation, we never would have given you that room.

We are also sorry about the small fire that happened at the breakfast buffet. Were it not for the quick actions of guests such as yourself, it could have been much worse.

We would also like to apologise for the serious case of food poisoning you experienced after dining at our restaurant.

Should you book with us again, we will provide you with a 3% discount off your stay.

Don’t forget to leave us a 5-star review on Tripadvisor!

Kind regards,

Hotel management

How to write inverted conditionals

Inverted conditionals contain inversion instead of if. Inversion means that we reverse the order of the verb and the subject. This technique is typically seen in more formal contexts.

Inversion in the first conditional

To invert sentences in the first conditional, we place the auxiliary should before the subject, followed by the infinitive of the main verb: should + subject + infinitive.

Example:
Should you book with us again, we will provide you with a 3% discount.
= If you book with us again, …

Inversion in the second conditional

Generally speaking, it is uncommon to use inversion in second conditional sentences. Inverted second conditional if-clauses are often restricted to formal, written English.

In second conditionals, inversion is used to rewrite if-clauses that contain the verb be. Use the structure were + subject.

Example:
Were this my hotel, I would be ashamed!
= If this were my hotel, …

When the if-clause refers to an unlikely future event, we use the inversion were + subject + to + infinitive. We can use this structure with verbs other than be.

Example:
Were I to leave a review one day, it would be 1 star!
= If I left a review, … (at some point in the future)

Inversion in the third conditional

To invert third conditional if-clauses, use the structure had + subject + past participle.

Example:
Had we known about the bed bug infestation, we never would have given you that room.
= If we had known about the bed bug infestation, …

Do not use contractions in negative inverted conditionals.

Example:
Had the hotel not been so awful, I would have enjoyed myself.
not: Hadn’t the hotel been so awful, …

were it not for

The idiomatic phrase were it not for is also an example of an inverted conditional. It means without.

Example:
Were it not for the building work, the pool area would be open. (second conditional meaning)
= If it weren’t for the building work, …
Were it not for the quick actions of guests such as yourself, the fire would have been much worse. (third conditional meaning)
= If it hadn’t been for the quick actions …