# 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

Hi fuselka,

Yes, that's right. Of course, the reason you choose either structure is because you believe a situation is possible/likely or not so the belief comes first - it is the belief that makes you choose one or other other.

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Amani Sweidan on Sun, 27/11/2022 - 05:55

Is it correct to say? and why?

If the man I knew before was live, I would ask him

or

If the man I knew before was alive, I would have asked him

Thank you!

Hi Amani Sweidan,

The correct form is 'alive'.

When used in this way (following the verb 'be'), alive means living and not dead, while live means not recorded. Thus, a concert can be live but a person is alive.

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Perter,

But sorry it was a typing mistake; I was checking if I should use

If the man I knew before was alive, I (would ask) him
or
If the man I knew before was alive, I (would have asked) him

Thank you!

Hi Amani Sweidan,

Both are correct. They mean slightly different things. The first sentence means I would ask him now (i.e., in the present). The second one means that I would have asked him some time ago (i.e., in the past; already).

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Jonathan,

Thank you, but I'm a bit confused when to use the 2nd conditionals and the 3rd conditionals, would you please explain more and give some examples and what is the difference(in meaning) between the two types?

Thank you so much indeed!

Hi Amani Sweidan,

Sure, here's a brief explanation.

• The second conditional describes an imagined present or future situation, e.g. If I drank coffee (now or later), I wouldn't be able to sleep (tonight).
• The third conditional describes an imagined past situation, i.e. something that did not actually happen in the past, e.g. If I had drunk coffee (yesterday), I wouldn't have been able to sleep (last night). It means that I did not actually drink coffee yesterday, and I am just imagining the consequence if I had done.

You can find more explanation, examples and exercises for the second conditional on the page above, and for the third conditional on our Conditionals 2 page. I hope it is useful!

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by achachou on Thu, 10/11/2022 - 15:20

Hi, I'm bewildered ...
I've found this on YouTube. In fact it's a teacher explaining the use of type 1.

1a/ The government removed taxes. The people are happy.
b. If the government removes taxes, the people will be happy. ???

I've been told that when the hypothesis is in the past, one should use
type 3.
Then what I noticed is that the teacher used the past simple in the first (removed) and the present simple in the second phrase ( are)...
Thanks.

Hello achachou,

1a is not a first conditional structure. It's just a sequence of events that have happened. The government actually already removed the taxes and now people are happy.

1b is a first conditional structure. The government hasn't done anything about the taxes yet. But this person believes that removing the taxes will make people happy. Sentence 1b expresses this idea.

You're right in thinking that when the condition is in an unreal past (a past that didn't happen), then it's a third conditional structure. Here, such a sentence would be something like 'If the government had removed taxes, the people would have been happy'. Notice that this sentence isn't about reality; it's complete speculation, even if the speaker is convinced about it!

I hope that clears it up for you. Let us know if you have any further questions.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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.
Thanks.