Conditionals in English


When we use conditionals, it’s generally because we are leaving the realm of the real and entering into possibilities, hypotheticals, and speculations. We use them to speak of situations that might happen in the future, or that could have happened (but didn’t) in the past. It can require a little extra brain power to think abstractly. So it seems appropriate that using conditionals in English is one of the more complicated grammatical tenses. Read on for a very quick overview of the four conditionals in English, then test yourself with a short quiz at the end. Think you understand it already? Skip straight to the quiz.


What are conditionals?

Conditionals are sentences with two halves, called clauses, that are closely related. They are usually referred to as the if clause and the main clause. There are four different kinds of conditionals:



Zero conditional If clause: present simple

Main clause: present simple

Facts, habits or actions that always have the same outcome.

  • If you heat water to 100ºC, it boils.
First conditional If clause: present simple

Main clause: will + infinitive

Future situations that are probable or likely to occur.

  • If it rains, we’ll cancel the trip the beach.
Second conditional If clause: past simple

Main clause: would + infinitive

Future situations that are not likely to occur or present situations that are impossible.

  • If I won the lottery, I’d quit my job.
Third conditional If clause: past perfect

Main clause: would have + participle

Past events that could have happened, but didn’t.

  • If I had studied more, I would have passed the exam.



quiz first conditionals (2)

Or learn more about conditionals:

Zero Conditional

First Conditional

Second Conditional

Third Conditional


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