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 (375 votes)

Submitted by lynn313 on Fri, 22/07/2022 - 17:46


How do I use the first conditional for narrative writing/story/novel writing? If it is not in the dialogue form, should I change it into past tense?

Tonight, if this scandal goes public...The image of these hundreds of directors may be doomed. Their public persona may collapse, the stock price of the corporation may plummet... and it will be in danger.


Tonight, if this scandal went public...The image of these hundreds of directors would be doomed. Their public persona would collapse, the stock price of the corporation would be going to plummet... and it would make the corporation in danger.

**The situation is possible to happen.

Hi lynn313,

Yes, that's right (assuming the rest of the narrative mainly uses past tenses). The reader will understand it as a possibility at that point in time.

If I may suggest, I would say "would plummet" and "put the corporation in danger" for the past sentence.

I hope that helps.


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Fer-Recinos on Thu, 19/05/2022 - 12:45


Hi! I'm studying the zero conditional and I have seen this example: People shop more online when they're working from home.
Could someone tell me if this sentence is correct and why?
The example is from: Self-study online course > LearnEnglish Lessons B2 Upper intermediate > Module 4 > The humans behind online shopping.


Hi Fer-Recinos,

Yes, it is correct! The zero conditional typically uses the present simple in both clauses, but present continuous is possible in the 'if/when' clause, with the usual meaning of an ongoing or a temporary action. 

I hope that helps to clarify it.


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, "present continuous is possible in the 'if/when' clause"

What about:
If/when present simple + continuous
When you walk home, make sure she is not following you
When you watch TV, make sure you aren't turning the sound up too much
When Windy writes an essay, she is not using an extension
Is it okay? Or it needs to be done
If/when continuous + simple

Hi lRaisa,

Simple and continuous forms are possible in either clause:

When you walk home, make sure she does't follow you.

When you walk home, make sure she isn't following you.

When you are walking home, make sure she doesn't follow you.

When you are walking home, make sure she isn't following you.

The continuous form in the if-clause has the meaning 'during the activity' or 'at some point while you...'

The continuous form in the result clause describes an action in progress rather than a complete single act or choice.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Solosolix on Sat, 14/05/2022 - 01:38


Hello team,
I would like to know in which conditional can a sentence like this one be and the reasons why?
Lanisha didn't have money.Lanisha didn't prepare food for her children.(Rewrite the sentence begining: If...............)

Hi Solosolix,

You could say something like this: If Lanisha had money, she would prepare food for her children. This is a second conditional, showing an unreal present or future situation.

I hope that helps :)


The LearnEnglish Team

Then what about " Lanisha doesn't have money. Lanisha does not prepare food for her children". Then which conditional is this question?