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 (296 votes)
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Hello again AkiraTa05,

I wouldn't say that 'might' expresses less certainty than 'may'; as I understand it, they express the same degree of certainty or uncertainty. 'might' and 'could' are used more often in speech than in writing, though this is not to say that people don't use 'may' when they speak or 'might' when the write.

In most cases, you could safely use any of the three forms to express this idea. By the way, you find detailed explanations of the main uses of these and the other modal verbs in the Modal verbs section of our English grammar.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mohit Sharma on Sun, 26/07/2020 - 23:32

I really liked the article. Simple and knowledgable.

Submitted by Momy on Sat, 18/07/2020 - 12:17

Hello dear peter, I have a question and I will appreciate your help please write the correct sentence. if I stay up late for the exam, there is (or there will be) a strong possibility that I can't get up early in the morning and oversleep (or will oversleep) and miss (or will miss )the exam. As a result, I fail (or I will fail) the exam.

Hello Momy,

I assume you're talking about a particular situation rather than something that is typically true. In that case, we would say there is... will oversleep... will fail.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Dastenova Firuza on Sun, 12/07/2020 - 16:21

I learnt types of conditional sentences at school perfectly and today it helped to do the test without looking at the grammar explanation me .
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Submitted by Karan Narang on Sun, 05/07/2020 - 04:27

If I didn't learn to conditional sentence I would not know about these.

Submitted by Kim Hui-jeong on Sat, 27/06/2020 - 13:14

If he was outside our door, he heard our conversation. I think I've heard this kind of conditional sentences many times. Isn't this grammatically wrong, because a modal verb isn't used in the main clause, which should have been used? Maybe it is used in informal spoken English, but actually incorrect?

Hello again Kim Hui-jeong

As I mentioned in response to your other comment below, this sentence speaks about a past situation, not an imaginary (conditional) situation. This means that if he was really outside our door, it was impossible for him not to have heard our conversation.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kim Hui-jeong on Sat, 27/06/2020 - 11:55

If you want to achieve your goal, you have to start fulfilling your plan right now. /If he saw her playing games, then he saw her lying in her bed. Aren't these sentences grammatically wrong in the main clauses? Because I think I've heard this kind of sentence a few times. Maybe it is used in informal spoken English, sir?

Hello Kim Hui-jeong

These sentences are grammatically correct. Note that not all sentences with the word 'if' are conditionals. If we are not speaking about imaginary situations, we just use the normal verb tenses, i.e. the present tense to refer to the present, past tenses to refer to the past, etc. That seems to be the case in the second sentence here -- it means that since he saw her playing games, he must have seen her lying in her bed.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team