Introduction to Conditionals

There are four basic English conditionals that we use to express possible or imaginary situations: Zero, First, Second, and Third.

Conditional sentences contain two clauses: the “if” (condition) clause, and the “resultclause. All conditionals have two easy, possible structures and either structure can be used without changing the meaning.  We can put the “if” clause first, or the “result” first.  Note that we only use a comma when the “if” clause come first.

For example: If a certain condition is true, then a specific result happens.

IF Condition Result
IF x = 10, 2x = 20


For example: A specific result happens if a certain condition is true.

Result IF Condition
2x = 20 IF x = 10


Here’s a little chart to help you visualize.

Probability Conditional Example When
100% Zero Conditional If I don’t eat for a long time, I get very hungry. Any Time
~50% First Conditional If she sees him, she will tell him the news. Future
~10% Second Conditional If he studied harder, he would graduate with honours. Future
0% Third Conditional If they had gone to Hawaii, they would have surfed everyday. Past

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