# 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

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Submitted by Shayshay on Mon, 16/09/2024 - 15:11

Can we use would have and could have both in one ssentence? Pls give example and eexplain where to place ccould hhave and would have in the ssentence. Eg. If we could hhave worked harder, we would have won the match. In this ssentence why we have used could have after "if" ...why not would have in place of could have is used.

Hello Shayshay,

In informal speaking sometimes people say things like 'If we could have worked harder, we would have won the match,' but really the correct way to express this idea is with a third conditional: 'If we had been able to work harder, we would have won the match'.

Although people sometimes use 'would' or 'would have' after 'if' when they speak, generally these forms are not correct after 'if' in such sentences, as is explained above and on the page I linked to earlier.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Gracelyn on Tue, 27/08/2024 - 06:11

Can these 2 modal verbs: would and could, be used in first conditional? People seem to have different opinions abt them.

Hello Gracelyn,

Conditional sentences are either about real/likely/possible situations or unreal/unlikely/impossible ones. You cannot mix these, so you cannot have a possible condition and an impossible result.

A conditional beginning with if + present is one about a real situation and you cannot follow this with would, which is used for unreal results. Could is a little different as it has both a past meaning (when used as the past form of can) and a present meaning (when used, for example, to talk about possibility or when used for speculating and deducing). Because of this could is possible in certain contexts - it depends on the particular example.

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by anestrydom on Sat, 17/08/2024 - 16:46

Hi anestrydom,

All the articles on our site are written by members of our team but I can't tell you which individual wrote this particular article, I'm afraid.

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mark Stables on Thu, 20/06/2024 - 15:51

Vocabulary detail - isn't "ask someone OUT on a date" more frequent than  "ask someone_on a date" ?

(Grammar test 1, question 6)

Hi Mark,

I don't know which form is more common and if it varies over dialects of English, but certainly both forms are in common use.

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by enerobr on Sun, 12/05/2024 - 17:44

When using Conditional sentences, is it possible to say the result and afterwards the If/when clause?

Hello enerobr,

Yes, you can put the clauses in either order:

If it rains, I'll take the bus.

I'll take the bus if it rains.

Note the difference in punctuation: usually a comma between the clauses when we start with the if-clause, and no comma when we start with the result clause.

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team