Conditional Sentences

Conditional sentence


 Conditional sentences are sentences discussing factual implications or hypothetical situations andtheir consequences(results)

 Languages use a variety of conditional constructions and verb forms (such as the *conditional mood) to form these kinds of sentences.

*Conditional mood

 The conditional mood is the form of the verb used in conditional sentences to refer to a hypothetical state of affairs, or an uncertain event that is contingent on another set of circumstances. 

 This mood is thus similar to the subjunctive mood, although languages that have distinct verb forms for the two use them in distinct ways.

Full conditional sentences contain two clauses

・The condition or protasis
(=the If- clause = subordinate clause)

・The consequence (result) or apodosis
(=an apodosis is the main clause in a conditional sentence)


If it rains(then) the picnic will be cancelled.

If it rains = condition = subordinate clause

(then) the picnic will be canselled = consequence(result) = main clause

Syntactically, the condition is the subordinate clause, and the consequence is the main clause.

 However, the properties of the entire sentence are primarily determined by the properties of the protasis (condition) (its tense and degree of factualness).

 All conditional sentences contain a dependent clause and an independent clause.

 The dependent clause usually begins with "if"; it expresses a condition. The independent clause expresses a result of the condition.

  The if-clause is usually first, but the order of the clauses is usually not important.

  Thus, these two sentences have basically the same meaning:


・If it rains, the picnic will be cancelled.
・The picnic will be cancelled if it rains.

If the "if-clause" comes first, a comma(,) is usually used. If the "if-clause" comes second, there is noneed for a comma(,):


Leaving out If

In a formal or literary style "ifcan be dropped and an auxiliary verb put before the subject.

This is common with "had", "should" and "were".


Were I you I would accept the offer.
(= If I were you I would accept the offer.)

Had he not received her help he wouldn't have become a millionaire.
(= If he had not received...)

Types of Conditionals

English conditional sentences can be divided into the two broad classes of factual/predictive(real) andhypothetical/counterfactual (unreal), depending on the form of the verb in the condition (If-clause). 


1.Factual/predictive conditions= Factual / Real situations

2.Hypothetical/counterfactual conditionsUnreal / Imaginary situations

 Factual/Real situations 

 Zero conditional 

The Zero conditional is used for things that are always true as long as the condition is met. 


・If you heat ice, it melts.
・If you give respect, you get respect.
・If I am late, my father takes me to school.
・If he comes to town, we have dinner together.
・If he gets there before me, ask him to wait.
・When you fly budget airline, you have to pay for your drinks and snacks.
Unless you need more space, a small car is big enough for one person.
・Residents only get a certificate if they have attended the course regularly.
・If unemployment is rising, people tend to stay in their present jobs.
・If you visit London, go on the London Eye.

Situations that are always true if something happens.
To talk about things that are :

・General truths
・Common events


In most cases, it is possible to replace a zero conditional by a time clause using "when", "whenever", "unless". 

Basic form :

Present tense + Present tense

 1st conditional 

Often called the "realconditional because it is used for real - or possible - situations. These situations take place if a certain condition is met. 


・If we take John, he'll be really pleased.
・If you give me some money, I'll pay you back tomorrow.
・If they tell us they want it, we'll have to give it to them.
・If Mary comes, she'll want to drive.
・If I see him, I'm going to tell him exactly how angry I am.
・If we don't get the contract, we'll have wasted a lot of time and money.
・If you go to New York, you must have the cheesecake in Lindy's.
・If he comes, you can get a lift home with him.
・If he should arrive, we'll invite him along to dinner.
・If they happen to come to town, we'll have dinner.
Provided he finishes his studies, he'll find an excellent job.
As long as she pays off the loan, the house will be hers at the end of next year.

The 1st conditional refers to the present or future time. Here the situation is real and possible. It is used to talk about a possible condition and its probable result.


Basic form :

Present tense + Future tense

Alternate Forms

  (be) Going to 

In result clause,
'Going to' is often used to replace 'will' in the first conditional. This is often done to emphasize a certain result.


・If you skip your classes, you are going to fail.
・If you don't mend your ways, you are going to land in trouble. 

'Going to' can be used in the if-clause to mean 'intend to'.


・If you are going to skip school, you certainly won't pass your exams.

 Future in both clauses 

Sometimes we use a future tense in both clauses. This is particularly common in polite requests.


・If you will marry me, I will love you forever. (More polite than 'If you marry me')
・If you will wait for me, I will come with you.
・If you will help us, we will be grateful. 

Here 'will' means ' (be) willing to'. In more polite requests we can use' would'.


・If you would help us, we will be extremely grateful.
・If you would come this way, I will take you to the theatre.

 Present perfect in if-clause 

Sometimes we use a present perfect, instead of a simple present, in the if-clause. This is to put an extra focus on the completion of an action. 


・We will go to the movies if you have finished your work.
(There is a focus on the completion of the action.)

・We will go to the movies if you finish your work.
(There is no focus on the completion of the action.)

 Should in if-clause 

"Should" is sometimes used in the if-clause to imply that something is possible, but not very likely.


・If he should arrive, we will invite him along to dinner.
(He will probably not come. But if he comes, we will invite him to dinner.)

This use of "should" in the 1st conditional is stronger than the 2nd conditional in which an imaginary orunreal situation is presented.


・If he arrives, we will invite him along to dinner.
( 1st conditional - He is likely to come. And if he comes we will invite him to dinner.)

・If he arrived, we would invite him to dinner.
( 2nd conditional - I am sure he will not come.)

・If he studied, he would pass the exam.
(2nd Conditional - I am sure the student will not pass.)

・If he studies, he will pass the exam.
( 1st conditional - He will probably study. And if he does he will pass.)

・If he should study, he will pass the exam.
( 1st conditional with should - The student will probably not study. But if he does he will pass.)

 Happen to/ should happen to 

We sometimes use "happen to" or "should happen to" in If- clauses. It suggests that something is unlikely, but if it happens, something else will happen.


・If they happen to come to town, we will meet them.
(= They are unlikely to come. But if they come, we will meet them.) 

"Should happen to" has a similar meaning.

・If he should happen to get stuck in that town, he will be able to find a good hotel.

 Modals in result clauses 

We can use "modals" in result clauses to talk about future possibilities, permission and advice. 


・If you finish your work, you can go out and play.
・You should see a doctor if you continue to feel bad.
・If I arrive early, I might give him a call. 

 Provided (that),  As long as 

"Provided that" and "as long as" can be used instead of "if" to say that a particular condition must be met in order for something to happen. 


Provided (that) he finishes his studies, he will find an excellent job.
(= If he finishes his studies, he will find an excellent job.)

As long as you pay off the loan, the house will be yours at the end of this year.
(= If you pay off the loan, the house will be yours at the end of this year.)

 Hypothetical / Unreal situations 

 2nd conditional 

 The Second Conditional can be used used to talk about imaginary present situations, where we are imagining something different from what is really the case.

 We can also use it to talk about things in the future that are unlikely to happen, as the condition is unlikely to be met.


・If we were in London today, we'd be able to go to the Hyde Park.
・If I had millions dollars, I'd give a lot to charity.
・If it weren't for his dedication, this company wouldn'texsist!
Supposing he came to visit you, what would you do?
・If I lived in Japan, I'd have sushi every day.
・If I were you, I'd look for a new place to live.
・If I went to China, I'd visit the Great Wall.
・If I was the President, I'd reduce taxes.
・If we met up for lunch, we could go to that new restaurant.
・If I were to buy a new car, what would you say?

The 2nd conditional refers to present and future situations. It is used to talk about unreal - impossible,improbable or imaginary - situations.

It refers to an unlikely or hypothetical condition and its probable result.

Note the form 'If I were you' which is often used to give advice.


・If I were you, I'd look for a new place to live.
・If I were you, I'd go back to school and get more qualifications.

The Second Conditional is also used to talk about 'unlikely' situations.


・If I went to China, I'd visit the Great Wall.
・If I was the President, I'd reduce taxes.
・If you were in my position, you'd understand.

sometimes the 'if clause' is implied rather than spoken.


・What would I do without you? ("if you weren't here")
・Where would I get one at this time of night? ("if I wanted one")
・He wouldn't agree. ("if I asked him")

 1st or 2nd - What to use? 

Real and imaginary situations

The 1st conditional is often called the real conditional. It is used for real and possible situations.

The 2nd conditional is used for unreal - impossibleimprobable or imaginary - situations.


・If I become the President, I will give free electricity to farmers.
(Said by a candidate, who may win the election -1st conditional)

・If I became the President, I would give free electricity to farmers.
(Said by a child - 2nd conditional)

・If I win this race, I will be happy.
(- Said by the fastest runner - 1st conditional)

・If I won this race, I would be happy.
(- Said by the slowest runner - 2nd conditional) 

Direct requests and suggestions

In direct request or suggestions we use 1st. conditional.
To make a request or suggestion more politewe use type 2nd. conditional.


・I will be grateful if you lend me some money. (direct request - 1st)
・It will be nice if you help me. (direct request - 1st)

More polite

・It would be nice if you helped me. (less directmore polite request - 2nd)
・I would be grateful if you lent me some money. (more polite request - 2nd)


Basic form :

Past tense + Conditional simple or progressive

Alternate forms

 Modals in the result clause 


We can use "could" in the result clause to mean "would be able to".


・If you were more serious about your work, you could finish it in time.
(= You would be able to finish it in time.)

・If I had more money, I could buy a new car.
(= I would be able to buy a new car.)

・If you spoke a foreign language, you could get a better job.
(= You would be able to get a better job.)


"Might" can be used in the result clause to mean "would perhaps" or "would possibly".


・If you requested them more politely, they might help you.
(= They would perhaps help you.)

 Were to 

If can be followed by 'subject + were to' to suggest that we are talking about an imaginary condition.


・If I were to buy a new car, what would you say?
・If you were to lose your job, what would you do?
・If you were to win, what would you give me?

 If it were not for 

This structure is used to say that one event depends on another for completion.


・If it weren't for his dedication, this company wouldn't exist.
・If it weren't for your timely help, I wouldn't be alive today.
・If it weren't for his wife's money, he wouldn't be a millionaire.


"Supposing" is used in place of "if" to emphasize the imaginary. It is more commonly used in everyday speech. 


Supposing he came to visit you, what would you do?
(= If he came to visit you, what would you do?)

Supposing I became the Miss World, what would you say?

 3rd conditional 

We can use the Third Conditional to talk about 'impossible' conditions, impossible because they are in thepast and we cannot change what has happened.

To talk about things that are:

Untrue (never happened)
Unreal (imaginary)
Disappointing (regrettable)


・If I had worked harder at school, I would have got better grades.
・If we had bought that house, we would have had to rebuild the kitchen.
・If I had seen him at the meeting, I would have asked him.
・If I had seen him at the meeting, I might have asked him.
But for our savings, we wouldn't have been able to make the payments.
・If it hadn't been for Jack, we would have failed.
・If I had won that award, my life would have changed.
・If she had studied science, she would have found a better job.
・If you had invited them they would have come.
・If you had worked harder you would have passed the exam. 

sometimes the 'if clause' is implied rather than spoken.


・I'd have done it. ("if you had asked me but you didn't.")
・I wouldn't have said that. ("if I'd been there.")
・He wouldn't have let him get away with that. ("if he had tried that with me.")


Basic form :

Past perfect tense + Conditional perfect or perfect progressive

Alternate forms 

 Modals in result clauses 


・If he had known, he could have helped you.
・You might have finished the assignment on time, if you had planned more carefully.
・If you hadn't prepared, you should have told the professor. 

 But for 

"But for" replaces "if not" and is followed by a noun.

It is usually used in formal speech.


But for our savings, we wouldn't have been able to make the payments.

 If it hadn't been for 

'If it hand't been for' emphasizes that one event depended on another for completion.

This form is often used to show what the negative results "would have been" without a certain person or thing.


・If it hadn't been for Jack, we would have failed.

 Mixed conditional 

When we talk about mixed conditionals, we are referring to conditional sentences that combine two different types of conditional patterns.

  These combinations are not all that frequent, but the most common combination is when we have a 3rd conditional in the if-clause (if + past perfect) followed by a 2nd conditional (would + bare infinitive) in the main clause.