English ConditionalsThere are a number of structures inEnglish that are called theconditionals which are used to talkabout possible or imaginary situations.A "Condition" is a "situation orcircumstance".
• There are four basic conditionals that we use in English.• Zero Conditional• First Conditional• Second Conditional• Third Conditional
Structure of ConditionalSentences IF Condition Result If it rains, we will get wet or like this: Result IF Condition We will get wet if it rains.• Notice that we only use a comma in the first example.
Conditionals: Time and ProbabilityTable Probability Conditional Example Time If you heat Certain zero water to 100 conditional degrees celsius, any time it boils Likely first conditional If it rains, I will future stay in. second If I won the Unlikely conditional lottery, I would future retire. second If I had the Impossible conditional money, I would present lend it to you If I had seen Impossible third him, I would conditional have given him past the message.
Zero Conditional: Certainty• The Zero conditional is used for things that are always true as long as the condition is met. IF Condition Result Situation present simple present simple you heat water to If 100 degrees it boils. fact- universal celsius, present simple present simple If I drink coffee, I get a headache. fact- personal• In these examples, the result will always occur if the condition is met, so the time is not important.
First Conditional: A real possibility in the future• A First Conditional sentence is one connecting two future actions, where one must take place before the second is possible. Take a student who wants to go to university but hasnt got the results of their exams yet. They cannot go to university until they have received their results. In the case of a good student who is expected to get good grades, then there is a good possibility of achieving the marks required to get to university, so the following sentence could be used:
IF Condition Result present simple WILL + base verb If she gets good grades, she will go to university.We are talking about the future, but we use a present tensefor the condition and will for the result. In this case, theperson is sure about going to university.
We can use other modal verbs in the result part of the sentence: IF Condition Result Possibility she gets good she will go to If the condition isIf grades, university. met, then she definitely will go he gets good he may go to He is not sureIf grades, university. about going to university. The speaker isIf she gets good she should go to expressing his or grades, university. her opinion, giving advice.If he gets good he can go to This means that grades, university. it is possible. she gets good she could go to This means thatIf grades, university. it is possible, but not that likely. he gets good he might go to This means thatIf grades, university. it is possible, but not that likely.
We can also use different present forms in the condition part of the sentence: IF Condition Reason for tense Result present simple an action in the futureIf I see her, Ill ask her about it. present progressive an unfinished present actionIf they are still working, Ill go home. present progressive a future arrangementIf they are going, Ill stay at home. present perfect a finished action related to nowIf you have finished your Ill clear away the meal, plates. WILL + base verb making an agreement WILL + base verbIf you will work late today, I will let you have Friday off. expressing displeasure because WILL + base verb someone insists on doing WILL + base verb somethingIf you will drive too fast, the police will stop you.
Second Conditional: ImaginaryPresent or Unlikely Future • The Second Conditional can be used used to talk about imaginary present situations, where we are imagining something different from what is really the case. We can also use it to talk about things in the future that are unlikely to happen, as the condition is unlikely to be met. We use the past tense in the condition part and would for the result.
IF Condition Time Result Possibility past simple present WOULD + impossible base verb I dont have I had the I would the time, soIf time, learn Italian. Im not going to learn Italian. past simple future WOULD + unlikely base verb Theres a I would very small I won the travel chance ofIf lottery around the winning the world. lottery, so the trip is unlikely
We can use other modal verbs in thepast tense in the result part of thesentence: IF Condition Result Certainty past simple WOULD + base verb Although unlikely to happen, theIf I had the time, I would learn speaker is sure Italian. that they would do it given the opportunity. Although unlikelyIf I had more time, I might learn to happen, it is Spanish. only a possibility anyway. Although unlikely to happen, the I should learn speaker is sayingIf I had more time, some more about that it would be a IT. good idea, but is not committed to it. Although unlikelyIf I had more time I could learn to happen, it is Hindi. only a possibility anyway.
Third Conditional: Imaginary Past The third conditional is used when we are talking about the past and imagining something different from what actually happened: IF Condition Result Certainty past perfect WOULD HAVE+ past participle Although this didntIf I had known, I would have helped. happen, the speaker is sure about the result. Although this didntIf I had known, I could have helped. happen, the result is only a possibility. Although this didntIf I had known, I might have helped. happen, the result is only a possibility. Although this didntIf you had known, you should have helped. happen, it is only a good suggestion or piece of advice.