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 (296 votes)

Thanks, but I don't think that I have expressed myself well.
Here in Algeria, After giving the rules of conditional type 1,2 and 3. Students are asked to use one of the types in the following situations (examples).
1a- Banks lend you money to start a business. You promise in writing to pay them back. (here it should be type 1 because the verbs are in the present and express a future action)
b- If . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
answer: If you promise in writing to pay the banks back, they will lend you money to start a business.
** How can an action in the past express type 1 in this example?
1a- The government removed taxes. People are happy.
What should be the answer using If ?
If . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
For me the answer should be:
If the government HAD NOT REMOVED taxes, the people WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN happy.

Hello achachou,

I'm afraid I can't really explain what other people have said because I just don't know enough about the situation, etc., and in any case, that's not the sort of thing we do here on LearnEnglish.

'If the government removed taxes, people would be happy' would be a correct second conditional structure. It refers to an imaginary present or future situation. You could also say 'If you promised in writing, they would lend you money' with the same kind of meaning.

Your third conditional sentence about taxes is grammatically correct and so is 'If the government had removed taxes, the people would have been happy'.

I'm sorry if I haven't understood what you're asking for.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team


Submitted by nino23 on Mon, 31/10/2022 - 18:57


i have a question about other conditional expressions.
can we use all those expressions in first, second, third and mixed conditional sentences. for example
"even if"
" even if you take a taxi, you can't arrive in time"
" even if you took a taxi, you couldn't arrive in time"
" even if you had taken a taxi, you couldn't have arrived in time yesterday"

"only if"
" only if she takes her pills, can she recover"
"only if she took her pills, could she recover"
"only if she had taken her pills, could she has recovered"

" as long as you work hard, you will pass the test"
" as long as you worked hard, you would pass the test"
"as long as you had worked hard, you would have passed the test last week"

"suppose that you had gone to the party yesterday, how would you feel now" (mixed conditional)
" suppose that you had gone to the party, what would you have done there"
"suppose that you went to the party, who would you go with"

i hope you can check if these sentences are right. i was just wondering if i could use tem in different meanings with different conditional types. for example second conditional for talking about something imaginary. third conditional for something thas has happened or did not happen in the past an how the result would be. i hope you can help me with my question

Hi nino23,

Yes, you can. All these sentences make sense :)

I think that "as long as" is most frequently used with the first conditional. After a quick search I only found a few examples of it with the second conditional and none with the third conditional, but I think they are grammatically possible (just not commonly used).


The LearnEnglish Team


thank you so much for your quik reply. i couldn't find any answer on the internet so getting an answer from a teacher really helped me out.

Submitted by Muhammad97 on Sun, 23/10/2022 - 08:15


please I want understand the rule this sentence followed from the test 2:

"The project will be delayed if I don't finish this report on time."

Hello Muhammad97,

In the sentence with the gap ('The project __ delayed if I don't finish this report on time'), the verb in the 'if'-clause ('don't finish') is in the present simple tense. If the verb were in a past form, it would be a second conditional, but that is not the case here.

Therefore the sentence must be a zero or first conditional. It doesn't really make sense for it to be a zero conditional, because it's not really speaking about a general rule or something that is always true.

A first conditional form (with 'will' + verb) makes quite a lot of sense, since it suggests finishing the report on time is important.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Plokonyo on Wed, 12/10/2022 - 01:24


On this page explains "The second conditional is used to imagine present or future situations that are impossible or unlikely in reality."

What is the difference between "unlikely" and "impossible" as explanative above? And could you give an example sentence that talks about an unlikely situation and an impossible situation so that it's clear?

Hi Plokonyo,

Sure, here are some examples.

  • If I won a lot of money, I'd buy a big house in the country. (An unlikely situation - winning money, e.g. in a lottery, has only a very small chance of happening. It may also be an impossible situation if you don't even buy a lottery ticket, for example.)
  • I wouldn't worry if I were you. (An impossible situation - I cannot be you. It has zero chance of happening).

I hope that helps.


The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Jonathan. Do the following second conditional sentences show an unlikely situation?

It would be nice if you helpe me a bit with the homework.
Would it be all right if I came around seven tomorrow.
If you were to move your chair a bit, we could all sit down.