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)

Submitted by Vi_Vi on Mon, 11/09/2023 - 10:36


Good morning!
On the First conditional, an example says "I don't want to stay in London unless I get a well-paid job.". Here, the present simple form is used instead of Will + infinitive in the main clause. Is it because there is a stative verb (want) used?
Thank you in advance.

Hi Vi_Vi,

This may be quite a complicated answer but I'll try to explain it clearly! The usual form of the first conditional is with "will" in the main clause, as you say. However, in real life, conditional structures are actually more varied, and there are other possible verbs.

The sentence refers to a future situation/action that the speaker considers to be realistic. Although it doesn't have "will" in the main clause to show this, it has the verb "want" which does refer to the future. So, the whole sentence still has the first conditional "meaning", although it's not a typical example. Here are some other atypical examples.

  • If you didn't pass the exam last year, you'll have another chance this year.
  • I'm planning to buy a house next year if I have enough money.

I hope that helps.


LearnEnglish team

Submitted by agnesmag1 on Thu, 07/09/2023 - 09:24


I found an exercise about the 2 conditional that says the sentence "If I had written Hunger Games, I would be a very rich woman" is correct. Why it's not simply "If I wrote Hunger Games, I would be a very rich woman"?

Hi agnesmag1,

"If I wrote ..." shows an unreal present or future action. However, the book has already been written and it already exists. So, the speaker/writer wants to show an unreal past action. That's why it should be "If I had written ...". The idea is: If I had written Hunger Games (in the past), I would be a very rich woman (now / by now).

Does that make sense?


LearnEnglish team

Thank you Jonathan, but I was thinking it's mixed, rather than second conditional. So, to me, in this sentence the combination of 2 and 3 is used to talk about hypothetical situations happening in the past (third conditional) with a present result (second conditional). What do you think?

Hello Katapoom,

A third conditional has the following form:

If + had + past participle  >  would have + past participle

If I had moved to France in 2005, I would not have met my wife.

The sentence is about an unreal/imagined past situation with an unreal/imagined past result.


An alternative is a mixed conditional, so called because it mixes past and present times:

If + had + past participle  >  would + base verb

If I had moved to France in 2005, I would speak French fluently.

The sentence is about an unreal/imagined past situation with an unreal/imagined present result.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by howtosay_ on Fri, 21/07/2023 - 23:22


Hello, dear teachers and team!

Could you please help me with the following:

"I don't want to stay in London unless I get a well-paid job.". If I say "I don't want to stay in London UNTIL I get a well-paid job.", does it make any difference?

Thank you very much for your important help and I'm grateful for the answer to this comment!!!

Hello howtosay_,

Unless sets a condition. If the condition is not met, the result will not occur.

Until sets a time. When the thing occurs, the 'result' can happen.

Sometimes the two are interchangeable, but unless is used when you do not know if the condition will be met or not. Until can be used in this situation, but can also be used when the fact something will happen is sure but the time is uncertain. For example, both of these sentences are possible:

I don't want to stay in London unless I get a well-paid job.

I don't want to stay in London until I get a well-paid job.

However, in this example only until is possible as we know he condition will happen, we just do not know when:

I won't get up until the sun rises.



The LearnEnglish Team