We are all negotiators, whether we know it or not. Asking for a raise, selecting a restaurant for lunch or bargaining with your child are several examples of negotiation we engage in regularly. However, while negotiations are daily practice, the appropriate language used for effective bargaining doesn’t come easily for most people. Good negotiation skills are learned and developed through practice, and checking in with your grammar is the best place to start.
Before you start bargaining your way out of daily house chores, consider your use of conditionals: the cornerstone of negotiations. Conditionals are sentences with two parts; one part describes a condition, and the other part describes the result of that condition. The condition clause will always start with ‘if’. There are three different types of conditionals.
First conditional – possible
For example, the sentence ‘I will go if I feel better’ suggests a very real or possible future situation and its result. Other examples include ‘If I finish early today, I’ll go running after work’ or ‘I might be late if I don’t leave right now’.
[Conditional clause: present simple / Result clause: will, going to, may, might]
Second conditional – possible, but unlikely
This form is used to express improbable or impossible present situations and their results. For example, ‘If I had a million dollars, I wouldn’t have to work’ or ‘I might consider the job offer if they offered more benefits’. The first and second conditional are most commonly used in business negotiations.
[Conditional clause: past simple / Result clause: would, could, might]
Third conditional – impossible
This form is used to express hypothetical or alternative past situations and their results. For example, ‘If I hadn’t studied business I wouldn’t have gotten this job’ or ‘We could have supplied the goods if you had paid the invoice’.
[Conditional clause: past perfect / Result clause: would have, could have, might have]
Now that you’ve gotten the hang of it, decide whether the following sentences are first, second or third conditionals. The answers are revealed below.
- If you accept the price, we will sign the contract.
- I would consider giving you a discount if you paid in advance.
- If you provided us with some leverage, we might reconsider the deal.
- We would have met the deadline if you had done your share of the work.
- If you suggested an alternative I would be pleased to consider it.
- I’ll let you know if I have any questions.
[Answers: 1. First 2. Second 3. Second 4. Third 5. Second 6. First]
Tip: If you found yourself struggling to identify the verb tenses in each sentence, it might be a good idea to consider refreshing your grammar knowledge with an English course!