Conditionals: zero, first and second

Conditionals: zero, first and second

Do you know how to use the zero, first and second conditionals? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

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

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Thanks Peter, What time(present/future) does the following if clause and the result clause refer:- If you move, i will hit you If you pay me, i will work longer

Hello Bharati

The 'if' clauses refer to hypothetical future actions -- i.e. they may happen or they may not -- and the result clauses speak about actions after those hypothetical future actions.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Bharati on Sat, 22/02/2020 - 04:11

Modals plus present perfect are generally used for past time. But based on context, it can represent present time also. For example -Where is John? He must have gone out. This answer is similar to present perfect meaning "He has gone out" which has relation with present timeline as per definition of present perfect

Hello Bharati,

Perfect modal verbs describe past actions, though they may have a present relevance.

The present perfect in your example describes a past action (going out) which has a present relevance (he is not here now).

The perfect modal has a similar function. If we say He must have gone out then we are describing a past action (going out) with a present result (he is not here).


In terms of terminology, the modal is not followed by the present perfect, but by a perfect infinitive. Modals can be followed by various forms of the infinitive:

He must tell us. [infinitive]

He must be told. [passive infinitive]

He must have told us. [perfect infinitive]

He must be working. [continuous infinitive]




The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Bharati on Sat, 22/02/2020 - 04:06

First conditional sentences are said to be talking about future whereas some explain that it can be about present or future which appears more logical to me Example-If it rains, i will use an umbrella. Here besides future possibility of rain to happen, it can also be understood as if it rains in the present moment, i will use an umbrella in the present time. So it can represent present time also

Hello Bharati,

The modal verb will can be used for predictions (guesses, expectations) about the future or the present, and so the result clause in these conditional constructions can indeed refer to the present as well as the future. For example:

If Susan called then John will already be at the hospital.


The particular example you choose, however, does refer to the future in both clauses:

If it rains (at some point in the future), I will use an umbrella (as a consequence of the rain).


If we were making a general statement about our normal behaviour in certain situations then we would use a present verb in both clauses:

If it rains, I use an umbrella.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Your own example sentence in the First conditional explanation "I don't want to stay in London, unless i get a well-paid job"can be a good example of first conditional describing about present time rather than future. Hope you agree. Thanks