What are conditionals in English?

We use conditionals in English to express a condition and its probable outcome; they are related to each other.

They consist of two parts: the if-clause and the main clause.

If you get caught, you will be in trouble.

When the if-clause comes first, we need a comma to separate it from the main clause. But, when the main clause comes first, we do not need a comma.

4 types of conditionals

What is the zero conditional?

We use the zero conditional to express general truths that are always real and scientific facts where the condition is certain to happen.

If-clause: if / when + present simpleMain clause: present simple
If you touch boiling water,you get burned

More examples of zero conditionals

If you mix water with oil, an emulsion occurs.
If you drink water, you don’t feel thirsty.
You get pink if you mix red and white.

What is the first conditional?

We use the first conditional to express possible events in the present or future.

If-clause: if + present simpleMain clause: future simple (will) / modal verbs ( can, may, might, should, could, must) + bare infinitive
If I go to Japan,I will bring you souvenirs

More examples of first conditionals

If it is really expensive, we won’t buy it.
They might get in trouble if they argue in the company.
If you don’t read about the topic, you won’t understand the class.

What is the second conditional?

We use the second conditional to express an unreal event that is not certain to happen in the present or future.

If-clause: if + past simple / past continuousMain clause: would / might / could + bare infinitive
If I had more time,I would attend the event

Note: when using the past tense of the verb ‘to be’, was is recommended for only singular subjects and were can be used for all persons (including singular and plural subjects).

More examples of second conditionals

She could send the presents if you gave her the direction.
If I were rich, I would buy many cars.
If you paid me more, I would do a much better job.

What is the third conditional?

We use the third conditional to express an unreal event in the past and their imagined result.

If-clause: if + past perfectMain clause: would / might / could + have + past participle
If I had trained harder,I would have won

More examples of third conditionals

I could have come if you had called me.
If he had explained them the situation, they would have understood.
She would have felt better if you had hugged her.

Conditionals zero, first, second and third explanations, structure or form with examples

What are mixed conditionals?

Mixed conditionals involve the combination of the different types of conditionals, such as:

Type 2 (if-clause) with type 3 (main clause)

If clause: if + past simpleMain clause: would / might / could + have + past participle
If Anna had more cake,she would have given more to her friends

More examples

We would have continued running if we had more energy.
If the hotel had better service, we could have recommended it.
If he weren’t allergic to nuts, he would have eaten some.

Type 3 (if-clause) with type 2 (main clause)

If-clause: if + past perfectMain clause: would / might / could + bare infinitive
If I had brought my umbrella,I wouldn’t be getting wet now

More examples

If Mario had taken the job offer, he would be working in a better company.
I would practice the guitar everyday If I had bought one.
If she had passed the semester, she would be happy now.

Mixed conditionals structure or form with examples

Read more about English grammar here.