# Conditionals 1

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

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Hi Plokonyo,

Yes, the second conditional does have nuances in its meaning, but its general meaning is that the situation can be reasonably doubted to happen. It’s also relevant that your previous example that I commented on was "A win tonight would take Manchester United up to fifth in the Premier League table." This has only a "would" clause, no "if" clause, so it naturally focuses more on the (un)certainty of the end result, rather than the condition.

I’ve already commented that the use of the first or second conditional depends on several things, so I don’t think it’s possible to make a general statement such as “commentators say X”, which is bound to contradicted by other examples. There will be variation in what commentators say and mean, and both conditionals will be used. Also, we risk focusing perhaps too much on differences in meaning/usage that are hard to identify clearly, and missing the possibly more useful point that both the first and second conditional may be acceptable in the situation.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks a lot for the explanation, Jonathan. So when "would" (no "if" clause) is turned into a type 2 conditional sentence, it will have a different nuance, right?

Leicester 0-1 Man Utd (32 mins) A win tonight would take Manchester United up to fifth in the Premier League table. Here, no "if" clause, it means this naturally focuses more on the (un)certainty of the end result, rather than the condition.

However, if I turn the sentence into a type 2 conditional sentence, it would indicate an impossible or unlikely situation.

32 mins: Leicester 0-1 Man Utd
If Man Utd won today, it would take them up to fifth in the Premier League table.

Is my understanding right? What do you think?

Submitted by Robertas on Sat, 10/09/2022 - 03:52

Hi,

These examples are from Second Conditional:
"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".

Which of these sentences are used for present and future?

Best Regards,
Robertas

Hi Robertas,

All of these sentences can refer to the present or future. They all describe hypothetical or unlikely situations; whether they are about a hypothetical/counter-factual present or an unlikely or impossible future will depend upon the context in which they are used.

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Liam_Kurt on Sat, 03/09/2022 - 14:24

Hello learn english team
I have a question
I noticed there were 3 main conditionals: present real, present imaginary and past imaginary.
Is there a past real conditionals. For example: If he had enough money he bought the car
It is not imaginary since we don't know if he did have enough money but there's also a real chance he did and bought the car

Hello Liam_Kurt,

I'm not familiar with those names for the different combinations of forms that teachers often call 'first conditional' (and so on), but, following the logic of the other names, what you say makes sense, and that sentence is grammatically correct and means what you said.

'if' can be used not only in these structures with these verb forms; it can also be used with any other verb form that communicates an idea that makes sense. That's probably why you've never seen this particular one described in a special way anywhere.

Hope that makes sense.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Robertas on Wed, 31/08/2022 - 05:41

Hi,
Are these conditionals (zero,first and second) the only in english language? I mean what about other uses in other tenses like past perfect continues and others?
Regards,
Robertas

Hi Robertas,

There are other conditional structures too. The third conditional has an if-clause with the past perfect (simple or continuous), and it expresses an unreal past situation (i.e., something that did not actually happen in the past). For example: I would have got some food for you if I'd known you were hungry. (If I say this, it means I didn't know that you were hungry, and I didn't get any food for you.)

Since a condition and result don't necessarily occur in the same timeframe, we can make structures that mix the different conditional structures, e.g. If I hadn't got the job in Tokyo (last year), I wouldn't be with my current partner (now). These are called mixed conditionals.

You can read more explanation and examples of these on our Conditionals 2 page. I hope it helps!

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Robertas on Mon, 22/08/2022 - 04:24