Not yet registered?
Join our Community and check your progress .







English courses


Lesson 4.1

Conditional Sentences

Las frases condicionales
Share this

Advertisements

Translate
to Spanish
American female
American male
British female
British male
Listen to
this lesson

The use of the conditional implies that one action in a sentence depends on the other. The conditionals are used to speak about both real and imaginary situations. Conditional sentences are also known as “if clauses”.

Keep in mind that there is no conditional verb tense in English as there is in other languages. Instead, we use the auxiliary verb "would*" to form the conditional*.

There are four types of conditional sentences and the use of one type over the other reflects the probability of the dependent action happening.

Conditional Types

Zero Conditional

The zero conditional is used when the condition and the results are always true, such as with scientific facts.

IF Condition Result
if present simple present simple

Examples:

 If you heat water to 100° C, it boils. / Water boils if you heat it to 100° C.
 If I don’t practice the piano everyday I play poorly. / I play the piano poorly if I don’t practice everyday.
 Does your mom get mad if you don’t call her? / If you don’t call your mom, does she get mad?

Note: We can change the order of the clauses without changing the meaning. Also, with this type of conditional, we can substitute “when” for “if” without changing the meaning.

First Conditional

We use the first conditional for expressing the future and in cases when the condition is very likely to occur.

IF Condition Result
if present simple future simple (“will”)

Examples:

 If Bill studies, he will pass the exam. / Bill will pass the exam if he studies.
 If it doesn’t rain, we will go to the beach. / We will go to the beach if it doesn’t rain.
 Will you take the train if you miss the bus? / If you miss the bus, will you take the train?
Note: We can use certain modal verbs instead of “will” to change the probability of the condition or to express an opinion. For more information, see the lesson on modal verbs.

Examples:

 If it doesn’t rain, we may go to the beach.(Meaning: With the use of “may”, the meaning of this sentence changes. The speaker here recognizes that they can go to the beach, but they are not sure if they will.)
 If it doesn’t rain, we should go to the beach.(Meaning: In this case, the use of “should” expresses the opinion of the speaker.)
 If it doesn’t rain, we can go to the beach.(Meaning: “Can” here indicates that it is possible to go to the beach, but says nothing of the probability.)
Note: We can use certain modal verbs instead of “will” to change the probability of the condition or to express an opinion. For more information, see the lesson on modal verbs.

Examples:

 If it doesn’t rain, we may go to the beach.(Meaning: With the use of “may”, the meaning of this sentence changes. The speaker here recognizes that they can go to the beach, but they are not sure if they will.)
 If it doesn’t rain we should go to the beach.(Meaning: In this case, the use of “should” expresses the opinion of the speaker.)
 If it doesn’t rain we can go to the beach.(Meaning: “Can” here indicates that it is possible to go to the beach, but says nothing of the probability.)

Second Conditional

The second conditional is used to express an unreal possibility in the present, such as a wish or dream, or for an action in the future that is not very probable.

IF Condition Result
If past simple “would” + infinitive

Examples:

 If I won the lottery, I would travel around the world. / I would travel around the world if I won the lottery.
 If Rachel had more time, she would learn to play the guitar. / Rachel would learn to play the guitar if she had more time.
 Would you be happy if you were to get married? / If you were to get married, would you be happy?

Note: As with the first conditional, we can use other modal verbs instead of “would” to change the meaning or possibility of the clause.

Third Conditional

As opposed to the first and second conditionals, the third conditional is used to speak about a condition in the past that has not occurred.

IF Condition Result
If past perfect “would have” + past participle

Examples:

 If I had known then what I know now, I would have done things differently. / I would have done things differently if I had known then what I know now.
 Suzanne wouldn’t have had the heart attack if she had gone on a diet as her doctor recommended. / If Suzanne had gone on a diet as her doctor recommended she wouldn’t have had the heart attack.
 Would you have liked to go to university if you had been able to afford it? / If you had been able to afford it, would you have liked to go to university?

Note: As with the first and second conditionals, we can use other modal verbs instead of “would” to change the meaning or possibility of the clause.

Translate
English Spanish
Listen to
this lesson
Advertisements