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Real-life Grammar on MLK Day: Using “If” Statements to Talk about Probable Results


Today we honor the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King. I’m joining vocalist, composer, photographer and educator Ruth Naomi Floyd in sharing this quote from Dr. King about Jazz:


“Jazz speaks for life. The Blues tell the story of life’s difficulties, and if you think for a moment, you will realize that they take the hardest realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new hope or sense of triumph. This is triumphant music.” ~ Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from his speech included in the program at the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival.


I’ve underlined part of this quote as a fine example of how we use certain “if” statements in English to talk about what we think will probably or easily happen as a result of a situation or action. Dr. King uses an “if” statement called the first conditional. He tells us that if we think (present tense) about the Blues, we will realize (simple future tense) how this music powerfully communicates the profound sorrows of human experience and the victories that can come from them. Do you experience this when you listen to the Blues?


Practice using this “if” statement to talk about something that could probably or easily happen as a result of an action or situation:

if + present simple, ... will + base form of verb

Dr. King: If you thinkyou will realize


Everyday examples for practice: (not as profound as Dr. King’s!)

· If I have enough time, I’ll listen to Coltrane’s A Love Supreme tonight.

· If I see my roommate, I’ll ask her to join me.


*** You can also reverse the order of the sentence parts:

will + base form of verb, … if + present simple.

· I’ll check out a blues club in NYC if COVID precautions are in place.

· Marcello will miss the last train if he stays late to talk to the performers.


Make your own sentences and reverse the order of the sentence parts too!

For example:

· If it rains… she will…

· Adam won’t … if Ivan says…

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