Understanding Grammar: Unless with conditionals
In this week's Premier Skills English Podcast, Jack talks about the awful weather in his town and Rich and Jack make some Premier League predictions. The language focus is on unless and how it is used with conditional forms. Your task is to make three football predictions and tell us what can stop them from coming true. Don't forget to listen to the end of the podcast because we have a new football phrase for you to guess.
Understanding Grammar: Unless with conditionals
Jack: Hello my name’s Jack
Rich: and I’m Rich and welcome to this week’s Premier Skills English podcast
Jack: Where we talk about football and help you with your English.
Rich: We recommend that you listen to this podcast on the Premier Skills English website because that is where we have the transcript, language examples, activities, quizzes and a discussion page to help you understand everything we talk about.
Jack: However, if you’re listening on Apple Podcasts, you can leave answers to our questions in the review section. We do read all the reviews and would love to hear from you.
Rich: Don’t forget that we have our football English podcast called This Week that you can listen to at the start of every week. This week’s episode is about Matchweek 26 and we talk about Tottenham’s last-minute win at Aston Villa and a big win for Arsenal.
Jack: Some of the words and phrases we look at include: make amends, park the bus and back to back.
Rich: It’s on the Premier Skills English homepage, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and lots of other places right now!
Jack: In last week’s podcast, we spoke about food and drink and quantifiers like a piece of, a packet of and a pint of. We also asked you to share some of your favourite recipes. Thanks for all your comments - my favourite was the recipe from Romeroen in Mexico who told us about Pineapple upside-down cake. I think I might try it out this weekend.
Rich: If you want to complete this lesson and learn more vocabulary connected to food and drink, you need to go to our homepage, click skills, click listen and click podcasts. It’s called Learning Vocabulary: A piece of cake!
Jack: In this week’s podcast, we’re going to talk about what’s going to happen in the rest of the Premier League season. Who’s going to win it? Who’s going down? Who’s going to finish in the European places?
Rich: And we’re going to focus on some grammar. We’re going to look at the word unless and how we use it in conditional sentences.
Jack: Your task this week is to tell us about what you think might happen during the rest of the season and what might stop your predictions coming true. We want you to use the word unless when you write your answers.
Rich: Before all that though, we need to look at last week’s football phrase.
Last week’s Football Phrase
Jack: If you didn’t hear our football phrase last week we’re going to give you one more chance to guess now. We’ll give you the correct answer at the end of the show when we give you a new football phrase. Well done if you got it right last week and congratulations to those of you who wrote the correct answer on the Premier Skills English website or Apple Podcasts.
Rich: Alex from Ukraine was the first with the correct answer last week. Well done, again Alex, You are very quick. And well done to Marco Zapien from Mexico, Idzingirai from Zimbabwe, Ali Vasheghani from Iran, Ahmed Adam from Sudan, and Fred Zhong from China who also got the right answer.
Jack: Right, remember you can write your answers on the comments section on the Premier Skills English website or the review section on Apple Podcasts if that’s where you listen to us. Let’s hear last week’s phrase again.
Rich: The football phrase is to **** *** **** ****. This phrase is something managers use a lot when they are not happy and their team keeps losing possession of the ball. A manager might say we **** *** **** **** too much today, we need to keep hold of the ball more and make the other team work to get it back.
Jack: We’ll give you the answer at the end of the show and we’ll have a new football phrase for you to guess.
Introduction to Roleplay
Jack: In this week’s roleplay, Rich gives me a quick call to see if I want to meet up at the weekend. As is often the case, we end up speaking about football.
Rich: While you are listening, we want you to answer two questions:
Jack: Which team does Rich think will surprise everyone and finish in the Champions League places?
Rich: And which teams does Jack think will be relegated from the Premier League?
Jack (Skype sound): Hi Rich.
Rich: Hey, Jack. I was thinking of coming over to see you this weekend.
Jack: You might want to give it a miss unless you’ve got a boat.
Rich: What do you mean?
Jack: Haven’t you seen the news? The floods. Roads are cut off, police everywhere, I even saw a few cars floating down the street. Well, they might not have been floating down the street but there’s about a metre of water in some places.
Rich: I’d heard you’d had a bit of rain.
Jack: A bit of rain? It’s been raining cats and dogs for days. I’m a bit worried about the house actually.
Rich: You’ll be all right, unless you’ve moved? You live at the top of a hill.
Jack: Yeah I know but …
Rich: There’s no chance you’re going to get flooded but you might want to buy some wellies if you want to go into town.
Jack: I think I might stay in this weekend. Were you thinking of coming over to watch the Arsenal match?
Rich: Not unless they’ve suddenly started playing a bit better, they’ve been so boring to watch this season.
Jack: What are you on about? We won 4-0 last week.
Rich: I was thinking we could watch Liverpool make another step towards the Premier League title.
Jack: I wouldn’t count your chickens. You do sound more confident than you did a couple of months ago that’s for sure. I think they’re going to win it easily now, and soon, unless they have a massive injury crisis.
Rich: These things run through my mind too … we’re going to win it unless all the players get injured, unless all the other teams start playing like World Champions, unless the Premier League decide that Liverpool can only play with 5 players. Honestly, I’m not counting my chickens just yet.
Jack: There’s not a snowball’s chance in hell of any of that happening. Arsenal won’t start playing like World Champions for a start.
Rich: What about the rest of the Premier League though? It’s exciting at the bottom and the race for Europe is definitely on.
Jack: I think Norwich are down unless they start winning.
Rich: Definitely but they could start winning and they are only a few points from safety. I actually think Crystal Palace are in danger.
Jack: Palace? Really? Unless you had mentioned them, I would never have thought about Palace going down. I think they’re safe already. So who are going down then?
Rich: Norwich, Crystal Palace and Watford. What do you think?
Jack: To be honest, I haven’t got the foggiest idea. It’s too close to call.
Rich: What about Europe who’s going to get into the Champions League?
Jack: Unless Tottenham get some of their injured players back I think they’ve blown it.
Rich: Unless Chelsea get back in form they’re not going to get into the top four.
Jack: And Manchester United won’t do it unless they play way better than they have been.
Rich: So that leaves Sheffield United for the Champions League. I’d be very happy with that. What a story!
Jack: Of course, unless it carries on raining and the Premier League season is cancelled.
Rich: Don’t even think it!
Rich: Did you get the answers to the two questions we gave you?
Jack: The first question was Which team does Rich think will finish in the Champions League places?
Rich: I said Sheffield United will surprise everyone and finish fourth. The second question was which teams does Jack think will be relegated?
Jack: I said probably Norwich but I also said I haven’t the foggiest. This is an informal way of saying that I don’t have any idea. I haven’t got a clue. I haven’t got the foggiest idea.
Rich: If we have time, we’ll look at a few more strange expressions or idioms that you might have heard in the roleplay a bit later. First of all, we want to focus on one word and how we use it - that word is unless.
Jack: Let’s start by taking one sentence from the beginning of the roleplay. Listen to the sentence: You might want to give it a miss unless you’ve got a boat.
Rich: Jack was speaking about the weather in his town and that there had been lots of rain and there were floods in the town. He was telling me not to come to his house.
Jack: Unless you’ve got a boat I said.
Rich: Of course, he was joking here. The only boat I have is my sailing yacht in the Caribbean which is far too big to use on flooded streets.
Jack: I’ll ignore that. The word unless means if not. Listen to the sentence again and then the same sentence using if plus a negative.
Rich: You might want to give it a miss unless you’ve got a boat.
Jack: You might want to give it a miss if you haven’t got a boat.
Rich: Both of the sentences mean the same thing. When we use unless it is usually followed by a positive form - we said unless plus you’ve got in the example you just heard.
Jack: The word unless is used a lot in conditional sentences. Listen to these three examples from the roleplay. The verb after unless is positive in each example.
Rich: I think Norwich are down unless they start winning.
Jack: Unless Tottenham get some of their injured players back I think they’ve blown it.
Rich: And Manchester United won’t do it unless they play way better than they have been.
Jack: Now listen to the same sentences using if. What happens to the verb?
Rich: I think Norwich are down if they don’t start winning.
Jack: If Tottenham don’t get some of their injured players back I think they’ve blown it.
Rich: And Manchester United won’t do it if they don’t play way better than they have been.
Jack: In these examples, when we use if the verb that follows is negative but when we use unless the verb that follows is positive.
Rich: You might have noticed that there were a lot of conditional sentences in the roleplay and those examples. The word unless can be followed by the present tense or the past tense.
Jack: In the roleplay, we were talking about real or possible situations so we used lots of zero and first conditionals where unless was followed by the present but you can use unless in all conditional forms. Listen to this example:
Rich: The manager wouldn’t take him off unless he was really injured.
Jack: Here we’re using the second conditional to speculate about the manager’s decision.
Rich: Here’s another example from the roleplay that was a bit different. Unless you had mentioned them, I would never have thought about Palace going down.
Jack: Here, we’re using the third conditional to talk about something in the present that is different because of what happened in the past.
Rich: Jack had never thought about Palace going down until I spoke about it.
Jack: So, we can use unless with different conditionals and we’ll put a few more examples and practice activities on the website.
Rich: We mentioned earlier that we usually use unless with positive forms but there are some exceptions.
Jack: In the roleplay, I spoke about Arsenal and said ‘Not unless they start playing better’.
Rich: Not unless is an idiomatic expression that means only if. Will Arsenal win? Only if they start playing better? Here are another couple of examples:
Jack: Are you going to buy a new car?
Rich: Not unless I save some money.
Jack: Shall we go and play football?
Rich: Not unless it stops raining.
Jack: I can think of other examples too where we might follow unless with a negative. Listen to these:
Rich: Are you going to the match on Saturday?
Jack: Yes, unless I don’t get a ticket.
Rich: Are you going on holiday in the summer?
Jack: Yes, unless I don’t have the money.
Rich: So, there are some exceptions so we don’t always follow grammar rules - especially when we’re speaking.
Jack: We said that we’d look at some more of the idioms that we used in the roleplay earlier.
Rich: We used quite a few. Some of them were: Not a snowball’s chance in hell, to count your chickens and raining cats and dogs.
Jack: Unfortunately, we don't have time to look at them right now but we’ve put an activity on the page for this podcast on the Premier Skills English website.
Rich: You’ll be able to find all the extra materials on the homepage or by clicking skills>listen>podcasts>understanding grammar: unless and conditionals.
Jack: Your task this week is to tell us who you think will become Premier League Champions this season, who will be relegated and who will finish in the Champions League places.
Rich: But we’ve got a little twist for you. We want you to make your choices and then give a reason why your prediction might not be correct.
Jack: And when you give your reason we want you, yes you’ve guessed it, use the word unless.
Rich: To make it a bit funnier, use your imagination a bit, for example, Liverpool will win the Premier League title unless Pep Guardiola persuades the whole Liverpool squad to run away and join a circus.
Jack: So we want your predictions and some silly, fun ideas that use unless.
Rich: Write all your answers in the comments section on the Premier Skills English website or on Apple Podcasts if that’s where you listen to us.
Rich: It’s your turn with this week’s football phrase, Jack.
Jack: Yes, I’ve got it right here. This week’s football phrase is ****** ***. Tottenham and Liverpool have got it all to do in the ****** *** after losing to Atletico Madrid and Leipzig this week in the Champions League. Liverpool are at home in their ****** *** but Tottenham are away so the ****** *** for them is much more difficult.
Rich: It’s a weird phrase, isn’t it? If you haven’t got the foggiest idea I’ll give you a clue. I have two of them and I use them to stand on.
Jack: Too helpful! Let’s see who can get it right. Before we leave you we also need to tell you last week’s football phrase. The answer was give the ball away.
Rich: Right, that’s all we have time for this week! Don’t forget to write your answers to our questions and make a guess at our football phrase in the comments below. If you get it right, we’ll announce your name on next week’s show.
Jack: If you have any questions or comments or suggestions for the podcast or anything football or English related, you can leave them on the website in the comments section, on social media, on apple podcasts or you can email us at email@example.com.
Rich: Bye for now and enjoy your football!
How much did you understand?
In the podcast, Rich and Jack used some idioms and phrases that might be new for you. Do you know the words in bold?
A bit of rain? It’s been raining cats and dogs for days.
I think Liverpool will win it but I’m not counting my chickens just yet.
To be honest, I haven’t got the foggiest idea. It’s too close to call.
I think Tottenham have blown their chances.
There’s not a snowball’s chance in hell of any of that happening.
The floods. Roads are cut off, police everywhere, I even saw a few cars floating down the street.
All of these phrases were in the roleplay. Listen to the roleplay again and read the transcript. Listen for the phrases in bold. If you're not sure what they mean, have a go at the activity below or ask us a question in the comments section at the bottom of the page.
The word unless means 'if ... not'. Look at the first example Jack and Rich spoke about in the language focus. The meaning of the two sentences are the same but the form is different. Can you see the difference?
You might want to give it a miss unless you’ve got a boat.
You might want to give it a miss if you haven’t got a boat.
The difference is that we usually follow unless with a positive form whereas if is followed by a negative form if we want it to mean the same as unless.
Unless with zero and first conditionals
Jack and Rich used a lot of conditional sentences in the roleplay. Many of these sentences were examples of the zero and first condition as they were speaking about facts and results that will always happen if a specific action happens (zero conditional) and things they think will happen in the future and have a high probablility of happening (first conditional). Look at these examples and decide if they are examples of the zero or first conditional.
Norwich are down unless they start winning.
We’re going to win the League unless all the players get injured.
Manchester United won’t do it unless they play way better than they have been.
The first two sentences above are examples of the zero conditional. We create the zero conditional with two clauses (sentence parts) in the present simple. The speaker is saying that the results in these sentences (Norwich down and Liverpool winning the League) are certain. The third example is the first conditional. We create the first conditional by using will or won't in one clause and the present simple in the other clause. The speaker in this case thinks that while the situation is not certain, it's highly possible.
Unless with second and third conditionals
Most of the conditionals Jack and Rich used in the podcast were zero and first conditionals because they were talking about facts and making predictions but they also used unless with the second and the third conditionals in the podcast. Have a look at these examples:
The manager wouldn’t take him off unless he was really injured.
Unless you had mentioned Palace, I would never have thought about them going down.
In the first example, Rich and Jack used the second conditional to specualte about why the player was subsituted. We use the second conditional to specualte and to talk about hypothetical or less likely situations. In the second example, Jack used the third conditional as he was speaking about an impossible situation - something that cant be changed. Rich did mention Palace and that can't be changed. Jack has now thought about Crystal Palace getting relegated this situation can't be changed either. Take a look at this slightly easier example:
He wouldn't have scored unless the manager had brought him on.
Premier League Predictions
Your task this week is to make three Premier League predictions and tell us what can stop them from coming true:
- Who will win the Premier League?
- Which three teams will get relegated?
- Who will qualify for the Champions League?
Make your predictions and use unless to tell us why they might not happen. We will accept all strange and funny ideas. Here is what Rich said in the podcast:
Liverpool will win the Premier League unless Pep Guardiola persuades the whole Liverpool squad to run away and join a circus.
Write all your answers in the comments section below and don't forget to make a guess at this week's football phrase!