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 (302 votes)

Hello User_1,

The so-called second conditional is not a verb form but a sentence pattern with two clauses: if + past > (then) would + verb.

As you can see, the form used in the if-clause is past tense. This may be past simple or past continuous, depending on the context. Thus, your example has the correct form, though it's not easy to think of a context where the sentence would be useful. Perhaps something like this:

If the weather made things change then we would have problems making any plans.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter,
Yes, Peter. Thanks for your explanation.
I know the sentence pattern of the second conditional, but in my case the context would be a wish... something like that:
"If the weather made things change, I hope you will remember..."
Could that be correct?
Thank you

Hello again User_1,

I see. In that case the answer is no. Generally, 'hope' implies a possible rather than a hypothetical situation so we would use 'will':

If the weather makes things change, I hope you'll remember...

I think the first part is rather awkward, incidentally. A more natural phrasing would be something like 'If the weather changes/improves)...' or 'If your plans change because of the weather...'



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello again Peter,
sorry for asking more about it.
I would refer to a hypothetical context, so I will not use "hope".
Could you suggest me a form of wish in a hypothetical context that does not depend on will?
Thanks a lot!

Hello again User_1,

'Wish' is used for present or past counter-factual situations (I wish I were taller / I wish I hadn't taken the job), not for future events, however likely or unlikely. I think you're trying to fit 'wish' into a place that it just cannot go, I'm afraid.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by noechka on Tue, 19/09/2023 - 02:00


Dear teachers,

Could you please tell me and explain me (giving me some grammar book references) if the following sentence is a zero ou first conditional: "If the child makes a request, such as asking for food, the caregiver may reward the child by providing it"?

Thanks in advance for your help and attention!


Hello noechka,

Yes, this sentence fits the pattern of what is sometimes called 'the first conditional'.


The form of this construction is as follows: if + present > will + verb

However, other modal verbs can be used and not only 'will'. For example, you can use 'might', 'should', 'can', 'may' and others depending on the meaning required. Your sentence is an example of this – it uses 'may' as the modal verb in the result clause rather than 'will' to indicate a choice or option.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you so much for answering me, Peter!

I have just another question related to another English Language topic, which I would be very gratuful if you could answer me.

The question is: In the sentence: "Numerous language acquisition theories in the English Language aim to understand and explain how the process begins and processes", the verb that can better replace the verb "aim", without meaning change is:
A) objectify
B) attempt
C) seek
D) try

In my opinion is C) seek. Is that correct?

Thank you so much for your help!

Hello again noechka,

Answers B, C and D are all possible here so it is a question of which best fits the style of the passage. The passage is written in a formal, academic style so I agree that C fits best, though it is a subjective question and I would not say that B and D are incorrect.



The LearnEnglish Team