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 (372 votes)

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.


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!


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)...

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,
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.

Hello achachou,

I'm afraid I can't really explain what other people have said because I just don't know enough about the situation, etc., and in any case, that's not the sort of thing we do here on LearnEnglish.

'If the government removed taxes, people would be happy' would be a correct second conditional structure. It refers to an imaginary present or future situation. You could also say 'If you promised in writing, they would lend you money' with the same kind of meaning.

Your third conditional sentence about taxes is grammatically correct and so is 'If the government had removed taxes, the people would have been happy'.

I'm sorry if I haven't understood what you're asking for.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team


Submitted by nino23 on Mon, 31/10/2022 - 18:57


i have a question about other conditional expressions.
can we use all those expressions in first, second, third and mixed conditional sentences. for example
"even if"
" even if you take a taxi, you can't arrive in time"
" even if you took a taxi, you couldn't arrive in time"
" even if you had taken a taxi, you couldn't have arrived in time yesterday"

"only if"
" only if she takes her pills, can she recover"
"only if she took her pills, could she recover"
"only if she had taken her pills, could she has recovered"

" as long as you work hard, you will pass the test"
" as long as you worked hard, you would pass the test"
"as long as you had worked hard, you would have passed the test last week"

"suppose that you had gone to the party yesterday, how would you feel now" (mixed conditional)
" suppose that you had gone to the party, what would you have done there"
"suppose that you went to the party, who would you go with"

i hope you can check if these sentences are right. i was just wondering if i could use tem in different meanings with different conditional types. for example second conditional for talking about something imaginary. third conditional for something thas has happened or did not happen in the past an how the result would be. i hope you can help me with my question

Hi nino23,

Yes, you can. All these sentences make sense :)

I think that "as long as" is most frequently used with the first conditional. After a quick search I only found a few examples of it with the second conditional and none with the third conditional, but I think they are grammatically possible (just not commonly used).


The LearnEnglish Team


thank you so much for your quik reply. i couldn't find any answer on the internet so getting an answer from a teacher really helped me out.