Conditional imperative board game: It’s Your Life.

Doreen Gaylord, Kanazawa Technical College


Quick guide

  • Key words:conditional imperative, board game, speaking/listening
  • Learner English level:High beginner and above
  • Learner maturity:Adult
  • Preparation time:30 minutes per small group
  • Activity time:One 50-minute class
  • Materials:Game board, game markers, set of 63 cards (for each group)


The Conditional Imperative (CI) is one of the most frequently used and simplest conditional sentence types, though is often overlooked by EFL/ESL textbooks. It is used in everyday spoken English to instruct people on what to do under various circumstances, e.g., If you don't know what to do, ask me. Since adults are often in authoritativepositions, they regularly have a need to give instructions/commands.

The It’s Your Life game provides repetitive speaking and listening practice of the CI form. Verbs in the main clauses are limited to move and go, so it is simple to play. The cards have been written specifically for adult players, addressing topics such as (grand)children, gardening, volunteer work, etc. It also provides a chance for players to get to know each other and sparks lively conversation.


Step 1:Download the game board and cards (Appendices 1 and 2).

Step 2:Enlarge the board to fit A3-size paper and print on cardboard or laminate (one for each group of three to five players).

Step 3:Print one set of cards for each group on cardboard. Cut and store sets in small plastic bags.

Step 4:Organize game markers for each player.


Step 1:Demonstrate how to play by posting a game board on the whiteboard and putting different colored magnets representing players’ markers on the Start square. Explain the object of the game is to be the first player to reach Finish and that instead of using dice, you move by following instructions on the cards.

Step 2:Pre-teach move ahead/forward,back/backward(s), space(s), andonce/twice. Other new vocabulary can be pre-taught to the whole class, or addressed in groups by the teacher or through peer teaching as it comes up during play.

Step 3:Review the different card types:

  • cards that simply instruct players to move ahead or back one space, two spaces, etc. (e.g., “If you drive a hybrid car, move ahead five spaces.”)
  • cards that instruct players to move forward or backward an equal number of spaces according to the number of things they have or times they do something (e.g., “If you drink one can of soda a day, move back one space; two cans, two spaces, etc.”)
  • cards that have a question and “if so”statement (e.g., “Do you smoke? If so, go back to Start.”)

Step 4:Show that there are two spaces on the game board with additional instructions to follow, if they land on them.

Step 5:Explain that players take turns reading the cards aloud but, unlike many games where only the player reading the card moves, all players move according to the instructions on every card.

Step 6:Distribute boards, cards, and markers to each group. Players decide who will read aloud first. The teacher should circulate during play, helping with new vocabulary and pronunciation. Encourage follow-up questions.

Step 7:When finished playing, review the grammar on the cards, eliciting:

  • the verb form in the main clause (imperative form);
  • two possible clause orderings (initial and final position);
  • the pro-form “if so …” (follows a question and acts as a pronoun);
  • the optional insertion of then (when the conditional clause is in the initial position); and
  • the introductory “if” cannot be replaced by “when/whenever” (a true conditional here).


It’s Your Lifehas been played successfully in local Hoso Daigaku (The Open University of Japan) adult classes and in semi-private lessons. High school students have also enjoyed playing with cards tailored to their interests. It is simple enough to be played as an introduction to the CI or it can be used as a culminating activity. And, because all players respond to every card read aloud, players stay engaged throughout the game.It’s Your Life provides fun-filled practice of one of the most common and simplest of the conditional sentence types produced by adults in everyday spoken English.


The appendixes for this article can be downloaded from the link below