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 (301 votes)

Hi lRaisa,

Simple and continuous forms are possible in either clause:

When you walk home, make sure she does't follow you.

When you walk home, make sure she isn't following you.

When you are walking home, make sure she doesn't follow you.

When you are walking home, make sure she isn't following you.

The continuous form in the if-clause has the meaning 'during the activity' or 'at some point while you...'

The continuous form in the result clause describes an action in progress rather than a complete single act or choice.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Solosolix on Sat, 14/05/2022 - 01:38


Hello team,
I would like to know in which conditional can a sentence like this one be and the reasons why?
Lanisha didn't have money.Lanisha didn't prepare food for her children.(Rewrite the sentence begining: If...............)

Hi Solosolix,

You could say something like this: If Lanisha had money, she would prepare food for her children. This is a second conditional, showing an unreal present or future situation.

I hope that helps :)


The LearnEnglish Team

Then what about " Lanisha doesn't have money. Lanisha does not prepare food for her children". Then which conditional is this question?

Hi Solosolix,

If you want to make a conditional sentence about Lanisha's present or future, then it would be the same one that I suggested.

If on the other hand, you want to make a conditional sentence about Lanisha's past, that needs a third conditional structure: If Lanisha had had money, she would have prepared food. You can read more about third conditionals on our Conditionals 2 page.

I hope that helps.


The LearnEnglish Team

I think the right answer would be-- If Lanisha had had money, she would have prepared food for the children. It's because the given sentence about Lanisha actually happens in the past. Lanisha didn't have money and She didn't prepare food for the children. This situation about Lanisha might be over now and she's no more in this condition and now someone having knowledge about Lanisha looks back on the past and says this in third conditional.
If Lanisha's situation were present like Lanisha doesn't have money and She does not prepare food for the children, the answer would be the one you have a written above.

With regards

Submitted by Shrey on Mon, 25/04/2022 - 20:04


Would it be If I knew what he wanted, I would not have permitted this or If I knew what he wanted I would not permit this.