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Conditionals 1

Do you know how to use the zero, first and second conditionals?

Look at these examples to see how zero, first and second conditionals are used.

If you freeze water, it becomes solid.
If it rains tomorrow, I'll take the car.
If I lived closer to the cinema, I would go more often.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Conditionals 1: Grammar test 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

Conditionals describe the result of a certain condition. The if clause tells you the condition (If you study hard) and the main clause tells you the result (you will pass your exams). The order of the clauses does not change the meaning.

If you study hard, you will pass your exams.
You will pass your exams if you study hard.

Conditional sentences are often divided into different types.

Zero conditional

We use the zero conditional to talk about things that are generally true, especially for laws and rules.

If I drink too much coffee, I can't sleep at night.
Ice melts if you heat it.
When the sun goes down, it gets dark.

The structure is: if/when + present simple >> present simple.

First conditional

We use the first conditional when we talk about future situations we believe are real or possible.

If it doesn't rain tomorrow, we'll go to the beach.
Arsenal will be top of the league if they win.
When I finish work, I'll call you.

In first conditional sentences, the structure is usually: if/when + present simple >> will + infinitive. 

It is also common to use this structure with unless, as long as, as soon as or in case instead of if.

I'll leave as soon as the babysitter arrives.
I don't want to stay in London unless I get a well-paid job.
I'll give you a key in case I'm not at home.
You can go to the party, as long as you're back by midnight.

Second conditional

The second conditional is used to imagine present or future situations that are impossible or unlikely in reality.

If we had a garden, we could have a cat.
If I won a lot of money, I'd buy a big house in the country.
I wouldn't worry if I were you.

The structure is usually: if + past simple >> + would + infinitive. 

When if is followed by the verb be, it is grammatically correct to say if I were, if he were, if she were and if it were. However, it is also common to hear these structures with was, especially in the he/she form.

If I were you, I wouldn't mention it.
If she was prime minister, she would invest more money in schools.
He would travel more if he was younger.

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Conditionals 1: Grammar test 2

Language level

Intermediate: B1

Comments

Thanks for the great material!
Can I use unless, provided, as long as, etc. with all conditional forms or only for the 1st conditional?

Hello yo_carme,

Glad you find it useful! You can certainly use these words with other verb tenses, but I'm not sure you can use them all with all the different conditional forms.

I'd recommend you have a look at the example sentences in a good dictionary (for example, see the Grammar box for 'unless') to see how they're used there. Then, if you want to write a specific sentence or two to ask us to check if they're all right, please feel free to do so.

Hope this helps!

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for your help!

Hi English Team,

1. If she is travelling abroad on business, she always phones me every morning. - Could I say "If she travels abroad on business..."?
2. If age-related changes are taken into account, the conclusion remains the same. - Could I say "...will remain the same"?
3. If I fail my exam again, I am giving up the course - Could I say "...I will give up the course."

Thanks in advance.

Hello LilyLinSZ,

Changing the verb form changes the meaning, so while you could say the alternative sentences you ask about, I can't really say if they're appropriate or not because I don't know what the situation and your intentions are.

For example, it would be strange to say what you propose in 1, though I'm not sure I'd say it's incorrect. In any case, I'd probably say 'When' instead of 'If' here, unless I've misunderstood the idea. In 2, 'will remain' would work better if, for example, you had to run a complex computer model to get results and then draw a conclusion. But if it's something simpler, the simple present form is probably better. Again, I'd be tempted to say 'when' here. In 3, 'I will' expresses a decision you're taking in the moment, whereas the present continuous form expresses a plan you have, i.e. you've probably already taken the decision before now.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi sir,
"If we had a garden, we could have a cat."
Can we write this sentence as "if we were to have a garden, we could have a cat."

Hello TiaS
Yes, that's fine. You can use 'were to' like this to emphasise the improbability of the condition.

Best wishes
Jo
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,

Please help is it correct use of 1st conditional when I am talking in reference to future----

"If there is any work pending, I will work overtime to complete all my backlog upon my return."

----

Hi Naureen,

That sentence looks fine to me. Well done!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello teacher,

I found this lesson very helpful. Thank you.

I often hear people say "I'd appreciate if you could +verb(present tense)".
Personally, I wonder if I can also say "I'd appreciate if you +verb(past tense)."
If it's possible, I guess the nuance of the two sentences is different. So, Could you explain to me about it?

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