Conditional Tense

The Conditional Tense is used to explore the possible results of different circumstances.

The conditional is formed with:
– an if clause which presents the condition
– a main clause which presents the result of that condition

an if clause [condition] then a main clause [result]

There are 4 types of conditionals, each formed with a different combination of verb tenses to express different levels of possibility and probability:

Zero Conditional – the result is always true/always happens

First Conditional – the result is likely to happen

Second Conditional – the result is unlikely to happen

Third Conditional – the result did not happen

ZERO CONDITIONAL

The zero conditional is used to express general truths and results that are always true

It is formed with:
– if clause in the present simple tense
– main clause also in the present simple tense

conditional tense zero conditional

If it rains, the ground gets wet.
If you drop something, it falls to the ground.
If you heat ice, it becomes water.

In this type of clause, if can be replaced with when without changing the meaning, as the result is so certain.

Review the Present Simple tense

FIRST CONDITIONAL 

The first conditional is used to express results that are quite likely to happen in the future.

It is also known as the Type 1 conditional.  

The first conditional is formed using:
if clause in the present simple tense
– main clause in the future simple tense

conditional tense first conditional

If he misses his bus, he will walk to work.
If it rains, she won’t go for a walk.
If I overcook the cake, it will be hard.

Review the Present Simple tense and the Future Simple tense

SECOND CONDITIONAL

The second conditional is used to express a result that is hypothetical and unlikely to happen.

It is also know as the Type 2 conditional.

The second conditional is formed using:
if clause with the verb in the past simple tense
– main clause with would plus the verb in base form

conditional tense second conditional

If I won the lottery I would go on holiday for a year.
If she sang better she would go on X factor.
If he learned quickly he would skip a year.
If I was slimmer I would wear this outfit. (more commonly said ’If I were’ is used)

Review the Past Simple tense

THIRD CONDITIONAL

The third conditional is used to express a situation in the past that didn’t happenIt is hypothetical, with a probable result, and may be seen to express regret.

It is also known as the Type 3 conditional.

The third conditional is formed using:
if clause in the past perfect tense
– main clause with would + have + the past participle

conditional tense third conditional

If I had studied more I would have passed the exam.
If I had won the lottery I would have gone on holiday.
If she had read the book she would have known not to go and see the film.

Review the Past Perfect tense and the Past Participle

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