Superwava's Blog

Conditional Sentences

Posted on: November 18, 2011

There are several structures in English that are called conditionals.

“Condition” means “situation or circumstance”. If a particular condition is true, then a particular result happens.

  • If y = 10 then 2y = 20
  • If y = 3 then 2y = 6

There are three basic conditionals that we use very often. There are some more conditionals that we do not use so often.

Zero Conditional: certainty

We use the so-called zero conditional when the result of the condition is always true, like a scientific fact.

Take some ice. Put it in a saucepan. Heat the saucepan. What happens? The ice melts (it becomes water). You would be surprised if it did not.

IF condition result
present simple present simple
If you heat ice it melts.

Notice that we are thinking about a result that is always true for this condition. The result of the condition is an absolute certainty. We are not thinking about the future or the past, or even the present. We are thinking about a simple fact. We use the present simple tense to talk about the condition. We also use the present simple tense to talk about the result. The important thing about the zero conditional is that the condition always has the same result.

First Conditional: real possibility

We are talking about the future. We are thinking about a particular condition or situation in the future, and the result of this condition. There is a real possibility that this condition will happen. For example, it is morning. You are at home. You plan to play tennis this afternoon. But there are some clouds in the sky. Imagine that it rains. What will you do?

IF condition result
present simple WILL + base verb
If it rains I will stay at home.

Notice that we are thinking about a future condition. It is not raining yet. But the sky is cloudy and you think that it could rain. We use the present simple tense to talk about the possible future condition. We use WILL + base verb to talk about the possible future result. The important thing about the first conditional is that there is a real possibility that the condition will happen.

Second Conditional: unreal possibility or dream

The second conditional is like the first conditional. We are still thinking about the future. We are thinking about a particular condition in the future, and the result of this condition. But there is not a real possibility that this condition will happen. For example, you do not have a lottery ticket. Is it possible to win? No! No lottery ticket, no win! But maybe you will buy a lottery ticket in the future. So you can think about winning in the future, like a dream. It’s not very real, but it’s still possible.

IF condition result
past simple WOULD + base verb
If I won the lottery I would buy a car.

Notice that we are thinking about a future condition. We use the past simple tense to talk about the future condition. We use WOULD + base verb to talk about the future result. The important thing about the second conditional is that there is an unreal possibility that the condition will happen.

Third Conditional: no possibility

The first conditional and second conditionals talk about the future. With the third conditional we talk about the past. We talk about a condition in the past that did not happen. That is why there is no possibility for this condition. The third conditional is also like a dream, but with no possibility of the dream coming true.

Last week you bought a lottery ticket. But you did not win. 😦

condition result
Past Perfect WOULD HAVE + Past Participle
If I had won the lottery I would have bought a car.

Notice that we are thinking about an impossible past condition. You did not win the lottery. So the condition was not true, and that particular condition can never be true because it is finished. We use the past perfect tense to talk about the impossible past condition. We use WOULD HAVE + past participle to talk about the impossible past result. The important thing about the third conditional is that both the condition and result are impossible now.

exemples

Zero Conditional:

IF condition result
present simple present simple
If I miss the 8 o’clock bus I am late for work.
If I am late for work my boss gets angry.
If people don’t eat they get hungry.
If you heat ice does it melt?

First Conditional:

IF condition result
present simple WILL + base verb
If I see Mary I will tell her.
If Tara is free tomorrow he will invite her.
If they do not pass their exam their teacher will be sad.
If it rains tomorrow will you stay at home?
If it rains tomorrow what will you do?

Second Conditional:

IF condition result
past simple WOULD + base verb
If I married Mary I would be happy.
If Ram became rich she would marry him.
If it snowed next July would you be surprised?
If it snowed next July what would you do?

Third Conditional:

IF condition result
past perfect WOULD HAVE + past participle
If I had seen Mary I would have told her.
If Tara had been free yesterday I would have invited her.
If they had not passed their exam their teacher would have been sad.
If it had rained yesterday would you have stayed at home?
If it had rained yesterday what would you have done?

 

Source: http://www.englishclub.com/grammar/verbs-conditional.htm

 

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