Conditional sentences are part of the English language that has been giving colors to our words and our ideas. It has been vital in showing or manifesting to us the possibilities, and the impossibilities of our thoughts when being used as a mode of communication.

But, what is this thing?

Well, conditional sentences are used to show the possibilities of things that could have had happened, what might have happened, or the things we dream of happening.

You will notice these sentences immediately because of the word “if”. The word “if” is used to refer to situations that are under certain conditions. These may be possible and real things, the unreal things that might be possible, and the impossibles.

There are four main ways of constructing conditional sentences in the English language. In all cases, these sentences are made up of an if clause and a main clause.

In this blog, we will learn all the things we need to learn about conditional sentences. Are you ready?? Okay! Let’s start.

Conditional Tenses

Future Conditional

The future conditional describes the things that will or might happen in the future. It uses “if” and simple present tense in the if-clause, and will as a modal verb for the main clause. Take note, the main clause’s subject should complement the subject of the if-clause.

Examples:

Present tense (if-clause)                                                                    Main Clause

If I eat                                                                                                      I will

If we go                                                                                                   We will

You can use other modal verbs: can, might, should, must, etc. Also, you may reverse the order of the sentence. It does not matter which either of the two, main clause and if-clause or if-clause and main clause, will come first, it will not affect the main idea of the sentence.

If I eat a lot tomorrow, I will be bloated.  or   I will be bloated if I eat a lot tomorrow.

I will bring my blanket and my do if I go to the park tomorrow. or If I go to the park tomorrow, I will bring my blanket and my book

Type 1 or first conditional sentences are using future conditional tense in their sentences.

Present Conditional

The present conditional describes a situation that is happening now nevertheless it is not real or it doesn’t have the possibility to happen.  It is also called as the present unreal or present contrary-to-fact.  The if-clause uses the simple past tense. You use “would,” “could,” “might,” or “should” as a modal verb on its main clause.

If-clause                                                          Main Clause

If I had                                                             I could change

If I were you                                                   I   would have

Examples:

I would have chased her if I were you.

If I had the power, I would change the world.

Present conditional can be used into type 2 or second conditional sentences.

Past Conditional

The past conditional modifies a situation in the past that never happened, or it happened however, the speaker invalidates the possibility of the action;  that it may never happened in the past. It’s like contradicting your own words. Consequently, past conditional is also called as past unreal or the past contrary-to-fact.  The if-clause is in simple past tense or in past perfect tense. While, the main clause uses the modal verbs could, would, and should.

Example:

If-clause                                                                        Main clause

If I went (simple past tense)                                       I would have had/

If she ended (simple past tense)                               She would ended/She would have had ended

Examples:

If I had gone to that party, I would have had a good time.

If I had heard the weather report, I would have stayed at home.

Past conditional is used in third conditional sentences.

Four types of conditional sentences.

The Zero Conditional Sentences

Zero conditional sentences are used when you refer to situations that are happening now or always and it implicates realness and possibility. It is also used to refer to general truths. Simple present tense is used for this kind of sentences. In zero conditional sentences, you can use “when” in exchange of “if” without changing its major context or meaning.

Format:

If-clause                                                        Main Clause

If/ when + simple present tense           Simple Present

Examples:

It melts if you heat the ice.

If you don’t brush your teeth regularly, you get cavities.

When people always drink alcoholic beverages, their liver suffers.

When the volcano erupts, a massive destruction happens.

How to use zero conditional sentences

There are a couple of things to remember in constructing zero conditional sentences.  First, to put emphasis, zero conditional sentences are using simple present tense. Thus, avoid inserting will on both parts, if-clause and main clause, because this will become simple future tense.

Incorrect:

If you don’t brush your teeth regularly, you will get cavities.

Correct:

If you don’t brush your teeth regularly, you get cavities.

Incorrect:

When people will smoke cigarettes, their lungs are in jeopardy.

Correct:

When people smoke cigarettes, their lungs are in jeopardy.

For the second time around, it doesn’t matter if you are using “if” or “when” in making zero conditional sentences.  These two can be used interchangeably because they possess the same idea or meaning.

Example:

If people smoke cigarettes, their lungs are in jeopardy.

When people smoke cigarettes, their lungs are in jeopardy.

Type 1 or First Conditional Sentences

Conditional sentences-first

The type 1 or first conditional sentences are almost similar with zero conditional sentences; they both deal with reality. Their only difference is that the first conditional sentences talk about the probable outcome in the future, not now or always. Again, these kinds of sentences are used to express situations in which the outcome is likely (but not guaranteed) to happen in the future.

Format:

If-clause                                                                Main Clause

If/when + simple present tense                       Simple future tense

Examples:

If you sleep early, you will not arrive late.

You will do it perfectly if you practice your poem.

When people cooperate in the project, they will succeed.

If students listen to their teachers, they will eventually learn.

If you study well for tomorrow’s examination, you will get a high score.

How to use type 1 or First conditional sentences

Sometimes, we have the tendency to interchange zero conditional and first conditional sentences because we may take the wrong concept or wrong idea of the sentence. First conditional sentences are used to refer to things that will happen in the future and is manifesting uncertainty. Thus, use “will” in the main clause and not in the “if-clause” of the sentence.

Incorrect:

If you study well for tomorrow’s examination, you get a high score.

Correct:

If you study well for tomorrow’s examination, you will get a high score.

Take note, the first sentence above is showcasing a zero conditional sentence. It looks correct however the idea of the sentence is showing unwarranted possibility. So, it falls to type 1 rather than zero conditional. Hence, the main clause should use will in its sentence.

Furthermore, the “if-clause” should always be in the simple present tense form of the sentence.

Incorrect:

You will do it perfectly if you would practice your poem.

If students will listen to their teachers, they will eventually learn.

Correct:

You will do it perfectly if you practice your poem.

If students listen to their teachers, they will eventually learn.

Type 2 or Second conditional sentences

Second conditional sentences deal with unrealistic situations that are happening now or any time being. In this type of conditional sentences, the “if-clause” part is in simple past form, and its main clause is in present conditional or present progressive.

Format:

If-clause                                             Main Clause

If + simple past                                present conditional or present progressive.

Present progressive takes the verb+ -ing form of the verb. Examples of this form are is walking, are jumping, and I am talking.

 Examples:

If she won the lottery, she would travel the world.

I would end up witnessing everything If I became immortal.

If I had one wish, I might wish for an unlimited supply of gold.

If he inherited the billion dollars, he would buy an island and would sleep in a bed of money.

How to use type 2 or second conditional sentences

The second conditional sentences use the simple past tense in the if-clause and an auxiliary modal verb (could, should, would, might) in the main clause (the one that expresses the unrealistic or hypothetical outcome).

Incorrect:

If I had one wish, I shall wish for an unlimited supply of gold.

If he inherited the billion dollars, he will buy an island and would sleep in a bed of money.

Correct:

If I had one wish, I might wish for an unlimited supply of gold.

If he inherited the billion dollars, he would buy an island and would sleep in a bed of money.

Also, do not use the present tense in the if-clause because the present tense form of sentence connotes general facts. Apply the simple past tense in the if-clause.

Incorrect:

If she wins the lottery, she will travel the world.

If he inherits the billion dollars, he will buy an island and sleep in a bed of money.

Correct:

If she won the lottery, she would travel the world.

If he inherited the billion dollars, he would buy an island and would sleep in a bed of money.

Usually, we tend to use “will” instead of the modals to the sentence because it sounds right. However, use a modal auxiliary verb in the main clause when using the second conditional mood to express uncertainty that the action or the result will actually happen.

Incorrect:

If she won the lottery, she will travel the world.

If I had one wish, I will wish for an unlimited supply of gold.

Correct:

If she won the lottery, she would travel the world.

If I had one wish, I will wish for an  unlimited supply of gold.

Type 3 conditional or third conditional sentences

Conditional sentences- third

The type 3 conditional is used to refer to a time that is in the past, and a situation would be different if something different had happened in the past, or opposite of reality. In type 3 conditional sentences, the if clause uses the past perfect, and the main clause uses the perfect conditional.

Format:

If-clause                                             Main Clause

If + simple past                               perfect conditional or perfect continuous

Examples:

If Stacy called you, you could go with her.

You could have been on time if you had caught the bus.

If you had studied harder, you would have passed the examination.

If you bought the requirements yesterday, I might be able to do it on time.

How to Use Third Conditional Sentences

Third conditional sentences talk about a condition that was likely true or real but did not actually happen in the past. So, in using it in a sentence, use the past perfect (i.e., had + past participle) in the if-clause. The modal auxiliary (would, could, should, etc.) + have + past participle in the main clause expresses the theoretical situation that could have happened.

So, there are common mistakes happen when using third conditional sentences; which we want to avoid. Hence, do not use a modal auxiliary verb in the if-clause.

Incorrect:

I might be able to do it on time if you bought the requirements yesterday.

If you could have had studied harder, you would have passed the examination.

Correct:

If you had studied harder, you would have passed the examination

I might be able to do it on time if you bought the requirements yesterday.

In addition, the third conditional sentences are expressing situations in the past that could have happened when certain conditions have been met. As a result, we use the modal auxiliary verb + have + the past participle to show this scenario.

Incorrect:

If you had given me your letter address, I would write to you.

I would buy you a present if I had known it was your birthday.

Correct:

If you had given me your letter address, I would have written to you.

I would have bought you a present if I had known it was your birthday.

Punctuating Conditional Sentences

Punctuation used in conditional sentences seem unimportant nonetheless it plays an equal role with any of the above do’s and don’ts of conditional sentences.

Use a comma after the if-clause when the if-clause precedes the main clause.

If I’d had time, I would have cleaned the house.

If the main clause precedes the if-clause, no punctuation is necessary.

I would have cleaned the house if I’d had time.

In conclusion, conditional sentences are more real than any of its vagueness and impossibilities it conveys in its own sentences. That’s why learn it and explore its beauty and its dynamics.

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Pronoun Examples and its Uses for Writing and Speaking