CONDITIONALS:

advanced grammar

Conditionals Explained:

Many of us struggle with conditionals! Remember to sign up for your free first lesson to discuss any questions you might have with your favorite Fluentella teacher! 

 

WRITTEN BY:

Helena

Helena

Head English and Afrikaans teacher

 

Helena is from Cape Town, South Africa. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Drama from Stellenbosch University in 2007 and is also TEFL qualified. Helena has been teaching for four years. She is currently living and teaching English at an English Academy in South Korea and also continues to teach students of all ages, nationalities, and levels online. She has a great passion for traveling and has lived and worked in four different countries. Helena believes some of the most important aspects of teaching are to make your students feel confident and comfortable and aiming to keep your lessons interesting, engaging, and fun!

 

 

Many of us struggle with conditionals! Let’s try and break it down a little bit:

Conditionals are also known as if clauses, we use them to say that one thing depends on something else. They can be used to talk about something that always happens, might happen or might have happened as a result of another state, action or event.

Let’s look at some examples below:

 

FOUR TYPES OF CONDITIONALS:

 

Sentences are divided into two parts: If clause (condition), + main clause (result).

(These are separated by a comma, but they also function without one.)

ZERO CONDITIONAL:

EXAMPLE: If I’m thirsty, I drink something.

*A GENERAL TRUTH*

FIRST CONDITIONAL:

EXAMPLE: If I’m thirsty, I will drink something.

*VERY LIKELY TO HAPPEN IN THE FUTURE*

SECOND CONDITIONAL:

EXAMPLE: If I won the lottery, I would buy a yacht.

*IMAGINARY / UNLIKELY SITUATION IN THE PRESENT OR THE FUTURE*

THIRD CONDITIONAL:

EXAMPLE: If I had woken up earlier, I would have caught the bus.

*USED TO TALK ABOUT REGRETS OR A SITUATION THAT CANNOT BE CHANGED*

Zero conditional

 

The zero conditional is used to talk about things that are certain, or always true. Scientific facts or general truths are written in the zero conditional.

Structure & Examples:

The structure of the zero conditional is:

If + present simple, present simple

IF YOU LEAVE ICE IN THE SUN, IT MELTS.

We can also use the word when instead of if and the meaning stays the same.

WHEN YOU LEAVE ICE IN THE SUN, IT MELTS.

First conditional:

 

We use this to talk about things in the future that are likely to happen or have a real possibility of happening.

Structure & Examples

The structure of the first conditional is:

 If + present tense, will/won’t + infinitive

IF IT’S SUNNY, WE WILL GO TO THE PARK.

We can use the following connectors instead of if:

When, as soon as, in case, unless, as long as, after. But please take note that each of these connectors changes the meaning of the sentence slightly.

WHEN I RECEIVE THE DOCUMENT, I WILL GIVE YOU A CALL. (MEANING AT SOME POINT AFTER RECEIVING THE DOCUMENT)

AS SOON AS I RECEIVE THE DOCUMENT, I WILL GIVE YOU A CALL. (MEANING IMMEDIATELY AFTER)

AS LONG AS I RECEIVE THE DOCUMENT, I WILL GIVE YOU A CALL. (MEANING ON THE CONDITION THAT THE DOCUMENT IS RECEIVED)

UNLESS I RECEIVE THE DOCUMENT, I WILL GIVE YOU A CALL. (MEANING EXCEPT IF)

We can use modal verbs instead of will/won’t:

May, might, shall, should, could, or an imperative in the main clause. This changes the meaning or the likelihood of the result.

IF I HAVE TIME, I MIGHT GO TO THE BANK. (POSSIBILITY)

IF I HAVE TIME, I SHOULD GO TO THE BANK. (OBLIGATION OR DUTY)

IF I HAVE TIME, I COULD GO TO THE BANK. (ABILITY / OFFER)

IF YOU HAVE TIME, PLEASE GO TO THE BANK. (IMPERATIVE / REQUEST / ORDER)

Second conditional:

Whereas the zero and first conditionals describe a real or possible situation, the second and third are imaginary or hypothetical situations.

Structure & Examples:

The structure of the second conditional is:

If + past simple, would/wouldn’t + infinitive

When there is the verb to be in the if clause, we can change it from was to were. This is because we are talking about hypothetical situations, so we’re changing the mood of the verb from indicative to the subjunctive. Both options are correct, but were is often preferred.

IF I WERE AN ANIMAL, I WOULD BE A LION.

Third conditional:

We use this structure to talk about an imagined past.

Structure & Examples

The structure of the third conditional is:

If + past perfect , would/wouldn’t + have + past participle.

IF WE HAD PLAYED A LITTLE BETTER, WE WOULD HAVE WON THE GAME.

We often use the third conditional to talk about regrets, and it is based on an unreal situation that cannot be changed.

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