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 (375 votes)

Submitted by Crokong on Sat, 06/11/2021 - 07:28


What is the difference between the following sentence?

46' The game is back underway at Old Trafford!
It would be a surprise if the game stayed at 2-1, with both sides desperate for the three points.

46' The game is back underway at Old Trafford!
It will be a surprise if the game stays at 2-1, with both sides desperate for the three points.

Hello Crokong,

There's no significant difference in meaning here. The first one talks about the possibility of the game staying at 2-1 as more hypothetical, but in both cases the announcer thinks it likely that another goal will be scored.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Kirk. I'm confused what I should express in a particular situation if there is no difference of meaning in the above sentences, This game is going on, so what should I use a past + will or a past + would?

It will be staggering if this game remains goalless.
It would be staggering if this game finished goalless.

My book says the form with a past + would expresses doubt. So, my opinion is that it may depend on how the commentator sees the situation. If both teams are playing safe and don't make a lot of attacks, obviously there will not be a goal scored, then the structure of "would + past" is appropriate, perhaps.

While the form with a will + present conveys certatinty. The commentor watching is sure that both teams are not playing seriously and both want the game to end in a stalemate.

Is my understanding right?

Hello Crokong,

I'm sorry -- this is something that's really difficult to explain. I appreciate that you are trying your best to understand this by really focusing on the details, and so I'll try to explain it again, but I would really recommend you read and listen and try to figure out how these forms work by seeing them in context. That's what you're doing here, which is great; I think the more you read and listen and find forms such as these in context, the more you'll understand them.

The point is that you can use either sentence to talk about the same match. Using a past form and 'would' suggests you see it with more distance -- it's more hypothetical -- but in both cases the match is going on in front of you, so in that sense there's no difference in meaning.

Although some explain this sort of grammar in terms of certainty or uncertainty, I don't think that's a good way to approach it because it can make it easier to forget that it's all about how the speaker sees the situation and positions him- or herself in relation to it.

I hope this helps!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by bloody_kary on Tue, 12/10/2021 - 05:43


Could you tell me please which verb I should use in this sentence in the subordinate clause: was/were?
It there were/was much snow, we'd go skiing.

Hello bloody_kary,

Both forms are possible here in modern English. In the past, 'were' (a subjunctive form) was preferred, but this is not the case in modern English and you can use either form.

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello bloody_kary,

Yes, both are correct in modern English.

I think the sentence could be improved in another way, however. We generally avoid using 'much' in affirmative sentences. Another quantifier such as 'a lot of', 'lots', 'plenty of', 'a good deal of' etc would be a better (more natural) choice here.

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by GiulianaAndy on Thu, 15/07/2021 - 00:28

Hello, awesome lesson. However I have a question, here you go: In the grammar test 1 is it possible to write down a comma before the if clause I got confused because of these sentences: 1) I would study English Every Day if I had time (There's no comma before the if clause) 2) We'll be late for the film, if we don't hurry up (There's a comma before the if clause) And also, I would like to know this: Is there always a comma before the clause in the sentence witch is not the "if" one?