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

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

Submitted by Austeja on Fri, 19/08/2022 - 21:10

Hello, what warmer activities can be used teaching first conditional?

Hello Austeja,

LearnEnglish is a site for learners rather than teachers, so how-to-teach questions are not something we deal with. However, we do have a sister-site designed for teachers. You can find it here:

https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/

You can find a lot of resources for teaching there, and also use the social media links to ask your question.

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by thebaongoc on Tue, 09/08/2022 - 16:04

I have a question that is unless used in all 3 three conditional sentences or the
first conditional

Hello thebaongoc,

'unless' is not used to speak about any unreal conditions, so you are right in thinking that it is not used with the second and third conditionals.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Tess98 on Sat, 06/08/2022 - 21:21

Hello team,
I wonder why in the first condition, the sentence structure is " will + infinitive". From my understanding, infinitive means to + verb. In this case, the example sentence should be: When I finish work, I'll to call you.
Thank you ;)

Hello Tess98,

I'm sorry for the confusion! Different names are used in different places. Here 'infinitive' means 'bare infinitive' or 'base form', i.e. 'call' instead of 'to call'. The author of this page would call the form 'to call' a 'to + infinitive'. I hope that makes sense.

In any case, it's clear you understand what the correct form is here. Good work!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Arezou on Tue, 02/08/2022 - 18:22

Hello team,
I think there is a mistake in the first conditional sentences: ( You can go to the party, as long as you're back by midnight.)
Why you use comma in this example?
It's a mistake...Am I right?

Hi Arezou,

Actually, it's not a mistake. Although there isn't usually a comma when the condition clause is second, it is possible to add one. For example, we can write "Arsenal will be top of the league, if they win" and "You can go to the party, as long as you're back by midnight."

We might do this to separate the two clauses more clearly or to reflect a speaker's pause there if the sentence is read aloud, for example.

I hope that helps to understand it!

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by lynn313 on Fri, 22/07/2022 - 17:46

How do I use the first conditional for narrative writing/story/novel writing? If it is not in the dialogue form, should I change it into past tense?

Example:
Tonight, if this scandal goes public...The image of these hundreds of directors may be doomed. Their public persona may collapse, the stock price of the corporation may plummet... and it will be in danger.

or

Tonight, if this scandal went public...The image of these hundreds of directors would be doomed. Their public persona would collapse, the stock price of the corporation would be going to plummet... and it would make the corporation in danger.

**The situation is possible to happen.

Hi lynn313,

Yes, that's right (assuming the rest of the narrative mainly uses past tenses). The reader will understand it as a possibility at that point in time.

If I may suggest, I would say "would plummet" and "put the corporation in danger" for the past sentence.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team