Conditional Sentences are also known as Conditional Clauses or If Clauses. Conditional sentences play an important role in grammar. They are used to express that the action in the main clause (without if) can only take place if a certain condition (in the clause with if) is fulfilled. They describe a condition and the result that follows. Conditional sentences are made up of two parts: the if-clause (condition) and the main clause (result that follows). Basically, there are three conditionals:
|Conditional sentence type||Usage||If clause verb tense||Main clause verb tense|
|Zero||General truths||Simple present||Simple present|
|Type 1||A possible condition and its probable result||Simple present||Simple future|
|Type 2||A hypothetical condition and its probable result||Simple past||Present conditional or Present continuous conditional|
|Type 3||An unreal past condition and its probable result in the past||Past perfect||Perfect conditional|
|Mixed type||An unreal past condition and its probable result in the present||Past perfect||Present contditional|
- Zero Conditional
The zero conditional is used for when the time being referred to is now or always and the situation is real and possible. The zero conditional is often used to refer to general truths. The tense in both parts of the sentence is the simple present. In zero conditional sentences, the word “if” can usually be replaced by the word “when” without changing the meaning.
Form: If + Simple Present, + Simple Present
(If + subject + V1 + Obj/Adv, + Subject + V1 + Obj/Adv)
If you touch a fire, you get burned.
Snakes bite if they are scared
- Conditional Sentence Type 1
Often called the “real” conditional because it is used for real or possible situations. These situations take place if a certain condition is met. It is possible and also very likely that the condition will be fulfilled. There is usually a comma between the two clauses.
Form: If + Simple Present, + Simple Future
(if + subject + V1 + obj/adv, + subject + will + V1 + obj/adv)
If I have enough time, I’ll watch the football match.
If i get the money, i will buy a mobile phone.
Use: Conditional Sentences Type 1 refer to the future. An action in the future will only happen if a certain condition is fulfilled by that time. We don’t know for sure whether the condition actually will be fulfilled or not, but the conditions seems rather realistic – so we think it is likely to happen.
- Conditional Sentence Type 2
Often called the “unreal” conditional because it is used for unreal impossible or improbable situations. This conditional provides an imaginary result for a given situation. It is very unlikely that the condition will be fulfilled.
Form: if + Simple Past, + would + infinitive
(if + subject + V2 + Obj/Adv, + subject + would + V1 + Obj/Adv)
Were / Was: In conditional type 2, we usually use in the if clause “were” instead of “was” even if the pronoun is I, he, she or it. “were” here is a subjunctive form.
If I were a millionaire, I would buy a castle.
If I became president, I would change the social security system
Use: Conditional Sentences Type 2 refer to an action in the present that could happen if the present situation were different. I don’t really expect the situation to change because it is very unlikely.
- Conditional Sentence Type 3
It is impossible that the condition will be met because it refers to the past.
Form: if + Past Perfect, + would + have + Past Participle
(if + subject + had + V3 + Obj/Adv, + subject + would + have + V3 + Obj/Adv)
If I had found her address, I would have sent her an invitation.
If he had been careful, he wouldn’t have had an accident.
Use: Conditional Sentences Type 3 refer to situations in the past. They express hypothetical results to past given situations.
- Mix Typed Conditional
The mixed type conditional is used to refer to a time that is in the past, and a situation that is ongoing into the present. The facts they are based on are the opposite of what is expressed. The mixed type conditional is used to refer to an unreal past condition and its probable result in the present. In mixed type conditional sentences, the if clause uses the past perfect, and the main clause uses the present conditional.
If + past perfect or simple past + present conditional or perfect conditional
- If I had won the lottery, I would be rich.
But I didn’t win the lottery in the past and I am not rich now.
- If I had taken French in high school, I would have more job opportunities.
But I didn’t take French in high school and I don’t have many job opportunities.
- If she had been born in the United States, she wouldn’t need a visa to work here.
But she wasn’t born in the United States and she does need a visa now to work here.
- If she had signed up for the ski trip last week, she would be joining us tomorrow.
But she didn’t sign up for the ski trip last week and she isn’t going to join us tomorrow.
- If Mark had gotten the job instead of Joe, he would be moving to Shanghai.
But Mark didn’t get the job and Mark is not going to move to Shanghai.
- If Darren hadn’t wasted his Christmas bonus gambling in Las Vegas, he would go to Mexico with us next month.
But Darren wasted his Christmas bonus gambling in Las Vegas and he won’t go to Mexico with us next month.
- If I were rich, I would have bought that Ferrari we saw yesterday.
But I am not currently rich and that is why I didn’t buy the Ferrari yesterday.
- If Sam spoke Russian, he would have translated the letter for you.
But Sam doesn’t speak Russian and that is why he didn’t translate the letter.
- If I didn’t have to work so much, I would have gone to the party last night.
But I have to work a lot and that is why I didn’t go to the party last night.
- If I didn’t have so much vacation time, I wouldn’t go with you on the cruise to Alaska next week.
But I do have a lot of vacation time and I will go on the trip next week.
- If Cindy were more creative, the company would send her to New York to work on the new advertising campaign.
But Cindy is not creative and the company won’t send her to New York to work on the new campaign.
- If Dan weren’t so nice, he wouldn’t be tutoring you in math tonight.
But Dan is nice and he is going to tutor you tonight.
- If I weren’t going on my business trip next week, I would have accepted that new assignment at work.
But I am going to go on a business trip next week, and that is why I didn’t accept that new assignment at work.
- If my parents weren’t coming this weekend, I would have planned a nice trip just for the two of us to Napa Valley.
But my parents are going to come this weekend, and that is why I didn’t plan a trip for the two of us to Napa Valley.
- If Donna weren’t making us a big dinner tonight, I would have suggested that we go to that nice Italian restaurant.
But she is going to make us a big dinner tonight, and that is why I didn’t suggest that we go to that nice Italian restaurant.
- If I were going to that concert tonight, I would be very excited.
But I am not going to go to that concert tonight and that is why I am not excited.
- If Sandy were giving a speech tomorrow, she would be very nervous.
But Sandy is not going to give a speech tomorrow and that is why she in not nervous.
- If Seb didn’t come with us to the desert, everyone would be very disappointed.
But Seb will come with us to the desert and that is why everyone is so happy.
NOTE: In one form of conditional sentence has two subjects and two verbs.
- If I study hard, I (pass) ______ this year’s exam.
- If the weather is fine, we (go) _____ on a picnic.
- If I go to Paris, I (visit) ____ the Eiffel Tower.
- If i were rich, i (quit) _____ my job.
- I he had more time, he (learn) _____ karate.
- She (spend) ____ a year in the USA if it were easier to get a green card.
- If you (ask) ____ me, I would have helped you.
- If she (take) ____ the bus, she would not have arrived on time.
- If we had gone to the cinema, we (see) ____ my friend Jacob.
- I would have written you a postcard, if I (have) ____ your address.
- Will pass
- Will go
- Will visit
- Would quit
- Would learn
- Would spend
- Had asked
- Had taken
- Would have seen
- Had had
Exercises are taken from: