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

Average: 4.1 (358 votes)
Thank you for your response, What I meant was whether I'm able to use "must" in the main clause or not while building first conditional sentences. For example, is the following clause grammatiaclly correct? - If you want to be successful in the exam, you must study hard. I'm wondering whether it is correct or not because I've never seen any first conditional sentences include "must" in the main part.

Hello Ali_Gokalp98,

Your example is fine.

It's perfectly fine to use a range of modal verbs in the result clause of a conditional sentence. Sometimes this is will or would, but other modals can also be used:

If you go to the party, you will meet her.

If you go to the party, you might see her.

If you go to the party, you should talk to her.

If you go to the party, you must talk to her.

If you go to the party, you can't talk to her.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ali_Gokalp98 on Mon, 14/09/2020 - 20:54

Hello, While building a second conditional sentence, in which way the verb "be" is used in sentences indicate presence of something. Take two sentences below, which one is grammatically correct? 1) I would take you to a hospital, if there were one. 2) I would take you to a hospital, if there was one. Thank you in advance.
Profile picture for user Kirk Moore

Submitted by Kirk Moore on Tue, 15/09/2020 - 08:08

In reply to by Ali_Gokalp98


Hello Ali_Gokalp98,

When we use 'be' in such a situation, 'were' is correct for all subjects and 'was' is correct for 'I', 'he', 'she' and 'it'. I'm not aware of any difference for 'there is/are'. In other words, as far as I know, both of the sentences you ask about are correct. Some people say that 'were' is better here, so if you're writing this, that might be a better choice.

Hope this helps.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by yo_carme on Thu, 10/09/2020 - 09:32

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,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by LilyLinSZ on Thu, 03/09/2020 - 12:25

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,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by TiaS on Sun, 23/08/2020 - 08:00

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."