Conditional Sentences and How They’re Used

'Conditional sentences and how they're used' and a magnifying glass

When should you use conditionals?

Using conditionals is a natural part of conversation for native speakers. Often, native speakers don’t even realize they are using conditionals!

Conditional sentences suggest that there are consequences for every action. Conditional sentences consist of a condition (the ‘if’ clause) and a result. Students are often confused about which conditional to use as we use different conditionals for different situations. Conditionals can be difficult to implement as we are required to utilize all the verb tenses.

Don’t forget to download your free Conditionals Cheat Sheet at the bottom of the blog!

The usage part

So, how and when do we use conditionals?

We use the zero conditional for the present simple, to talk about facts and general truths.

If this thing happens, this other thing happens.

We use the first conditional to talk about possible future events.

If this happens, this will happen.

We use the second conditional to talk about unreal or imaginary present or future situations.

If this happened, this other thing would happen.

We use the third conditional to talk about unreal or imaginary past situations.

If this thing had happened, this other thing would have happened.

The grammar part

Let’s take a look at the structure of the conditionals in more detail:


Zero conditional

When/If + present simple + present simple 

Examples:

If the power goes out, I can’t play video games.

If you study grammar, it gets easier.

When I sleep for eight hours, I feel rested.


First conditional

If + present simple + future simple

Examples:

If it storms tomorrow, our flight might be cancelled.

I will have more energy if I drink this coffee.

A cup of coffee next to a laptop
If I kick the ball, I will score a goal! ⚽

Second conditional

If + past simple + would + verb

Examples:

If I had extra money, I would buy another house.

If I knew the answer, I would tell you.

If I didn’t have to work this afternoon, I would come with you to the beach.


Third conditional

If + past perfect, would + have + past participle

Examples:

If I had known about the meeting, I would have been present.

If I had left earlier, I wouldn’t have missed my flight.


Mixed conditionals

The ‘mixed conditional’ is formed by combining two different conditionals. 

We can mix elements of the second and third conditional to talk about an imaginary past situation and its imaginary result in the present.

If + past perfect, + would + verb

Example: We would be on a plane right now if we hadn’t overslept!

We can also use the mixed conditional to imagine how things could have been different in the past if other general truths were true.

If + simple past, + would + have + past participle

Example: If Jason were more hardworking, he wouldn’t have lost his job.


Activity

Practise using the different conditional structures by writing down your answers to the following questions:

  • What do you do if you don’t understand the grammar?
  •  What will you do this weekend if it’s sunny? What will you do if it rains?
  • What happens if you don’t drink enough water?
  • What do you do when you have time off from work?
  • If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you like to live and why?
  • If you had been born in a different country, how would your childhood have been different?
  • If you had chosen a different career, how would your life be different today?

Study conditionals in more detail

The Conditionals course, as with all the courses in Intrepid English Academy, recognizes students’ challenges. The Conditionals course essentially aims to help students confidently express themselves, by providing a range of practice activities and regular quizzes. There is an emphasis on real-world examples as we want students to feel comfortable using English and comfortably integrate it within their own context. After this course, you will be able to express yourself utilizing the conditionals freely and confidently.

The course allows you to adapt the content to your own environment. You can study at a time and place that suits you, and review your learning in live lessons with an Intrepid English Teacher, or by sharing with fellow students in the Intrepid English Community.

For more information about our courses and membership options, check out the Memberships page, send us an email, or use the green chat box. 

Grab your free downloadable Conditionals cheat sheet right here!

This content was written by Intrepid English Teacher Caitlyn.

Intrepid English Teacher Caitlyn

You can find out more about Caitlyn on her Intrepid English Teacher Profile Page.

Book a free trial lesson today to discuss this topic in more detail, and talk about your English learning goals with an experienced and friendly native English teacher.

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