Conditionals: Learn English Grammar


This post looks at ‘conditional’ sentences in English.  Conditionals talk about the possibility of something happening as the result of something else.

There are four types of conditionals (sometimes called ‘if’ clauses) in English.   Each conditional has an ‘if’ clause and another clause. The first two types of conditionals talk about real possibilities whilst the second two types talk about unreal possibilities.

Zero Conditionals

This talks about general truths, facts and habits.  It is used for real situations. The present simple is used in both clauses.

If (present simple)   +       present simple


If you heat ice,                   it melts.

If I run for too long,          my knee hurts.

It is also possible to change the two clauses and put the ‘if’ clause second (don’t forget to change the subject however)

My knee hurts,                   if I go running for too long.

Ice melts,                           if you heat it.

First Conditionals

The first conditional is used for real and factual future situations.  It describes how one possible action will result in another probable action.

If clause (present simple) +     will + infinitive

You will pass your exams,       if you study hard.

If it rains tomorrow,                   we probably won’t be able to go to the beach.

I’ll visit you after work,              if I have time.

Second conditionals

This conditional shows unreal situations now or in the future. These are hypothetical situations; imagined or suggested situations.

If clause (past simple)               would + infinitive

I would buy a new car               if I won the lottery.

If she worked hard,                    she would pass her exams but she’s really lazy.

Third conditionals

This shows an impossible situation and an impossible result because we are talking about the past.  As in the second conditional, the situation is hypothetical.

If + past perfect                           perfect or perfect continuous

If I had seen him,                        I would have said hello. (I did not see him so I could not say hello) 

You would have had a great time,   if you had come to our party.

They would have helped,           if they had known you were in trouble.

If I had not lost my ticket,           I would have been enjoying the concert right now.

We can also use other modal verbs: could have, would have, might have

If I had known you were going shopping, I might have come with you because I need to buy some bread.

He should have told us, if he wanted to invite us.

If I had had the enough money, I could have bought a new computer.




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