An Introduction to Conditionals

Ready to learn English with ISI Dublin? We are sharing some tips with you today. This reading is recommand for B1 Intermediate Level.

Conditionals are often called ‘if’ sentences.

We use them to discuss what will happen following another event. Sometimes they are based on real life, other times they are all about our imagination.They always come in at least two clauses. A clause is a verb with a subject.

Let’s look at an example:
If I am late for school, the teacher will be angry.

Let’s break this into two parts
If I am late for class… Subject; I; Verb: am;
… the teacher will be angry. Subject: the teacher; verb: will be.

The tenses of the verbs can and will change but today we’re looking at meaning. If you have never seen conditionals before or need to refresh, the first thing you need to know is there are four of them and they are called:

The zero conditional
The first conditional
The second conditional
The third conditional

EACH one has a very different use, but will have the word if and two clauses.
Let’s start with the zero conditional:

If you mix red and blue, you get purple.

This is a fact, it is true now and will continue to be true forever. This is what the zero conditional is for, to talk about facts or truths.

First conditional:

If Sally is late again, I will be mad.

In this sentence, we are talking about our reaction to something that hasn’t happened yet or may never happen. Unlike the zero conditional this is not a fact. Sally might be on time, which means I won’t get mad.

Second conditional:

If I lived on the moon, I would miss my friends.

Look at the first part of this sentence. Will I ever live on the moon? No, of course not.
We use the second conditional to talk about things that will never happen.
Notice in the second part we say I would. This is to show that we are talking about something that will never happen.
The most common second conditional sentence is: If I were you, I would….

Third Conditional:

If I had studied for the exam, I would have passed.

The third conditional is a way of changing the past (If I had studied) in order to imagine a different present (I would have passed).
Notice that we use would again to talk about the imaginary part.

An easy way to remember when to use each conditional is

    • Zero = fact
    • First = probable future
    • Second = Imaginary
    • Third = Regret

Have you learned how to apply 3 different “Conditionals” to your daily life in English? Please leave a comment if you wish to learn more English tips from our blog.

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