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ConditionalConditionalZero ConditionalFirst ConditionalSecond ConditionalThird ConditionalMixed ConditionalInversion in Conditional Sentences
Passive VoicePassive VoicePresent Simple PassivePresent Continuous PassivePast Simple PassivePast Continuous PassivePerfect Tenses PassiveFuture Simple PassiveGoing to PassiveSay / Believe / SupposeGet + Participle
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Reported SpeechReported SpeechModals in Reported SpeechReported Commands and RequestsReported QuestionsPresent Perfect in Reported SpeechFuture Perfect in Reported Speech
Irregular VerbsIrregular Verbs - GroupsIrregular Verbs - Forms
ParticiplesPresent ParticiplePast ParticiplePerfect Participle
Other TopicsWill vs. Going toIf / Even if / Whether / Unless If + Were or If + WasAs If / As Though + Past SubjunctiveHabits Expressed by Will and WouldHad BetterSubject
Read MoreAuxiliary VerbsAuxiliary Verbs: To BeAuxiliary Verbs: To HaveAuxiliary Verbs: To DoWhen To Use the Verb To Be
Grammar

Conditional

Conditional sentences play an important role in grammar. They describe a condition and the result that follows.
On this page, I will explain the subject.

Conditional sentences are made up of two parts: the if-clause (condition) and the main clause (result that follows).

IF-CLAUSE

MAIN CLAUSE

If it rains,

I will take an umbrella.

Basically, there are four conditionals:

Apart from them, you can also form mixed conditionals.

The easiest way is to understand that both clauses (the if-clause and the main clause) can be real or unreal and refer to present (future) or past. Depending on these factors, the clause will look different.

a) Real conditional describes real-life, possible situations.

b) Unreal conditional describes imaginary situations.

We'll deal with each clause separately.

If-Clause

First of all, you must decide if the situation in the if-clause is real or unreal.

Examples of real if-clauses:

  • If I have some money, I go to a club. (Zero conditional or first conditional can be used. It's a situation that happens very often.)
  • When my uncle visited us, he would always help me with my homework. (My uncle visited us many times.)

Examples of unreal if-clauses:

  • If I could fly, I... (But that will never happen.)
  • If she had told me about that,... (But she didn't tell me.)

Once you've decided about that, it's time to choose the correct tense. As I mentioned, there are two choices: the present (future) or the past.

Examples of present if-clauses:

  • If meet him again, I will tell him that. (Zero conditional or first conditional can be used: I will probably meet him soon.)
  • If I were a bit taller, I would be more attractive. (But I'm not taller.)

If these examples have confused you a bit, don't worry — I'm sure everything will become more and more obvious in just a moment.

The table below sums up what has been said about the if-clause:

Real

Unreal

Present / Future

Simple Present

If he says

Simple Past

If he said

Past

Simple Past

If he said

Past Perfect

If he had said

Main Clause

The main clause is also formed in two steps: first decide if you're talking about a real or an unreal situation, and then choose the correct tense.

a) If the main clause is real, then it is exactly the same as a normal sentence. For example:

  • If he's late again, I will fire him. (First conditional: the situation is real because it can happen at any time.)

  • If the weather was nice, she often walked to work. (The situation is real because it happened at least according to the speaker).

b) If the main clause is unreal, then it is formed in accordance with the table below:

Present / Future

Modal + Infinitive

Examples: would, might, should, could

Past

Modal + Perfect Infinitive

Examples: would have, might have, should have, could have

  • If it wasn't raining, we would go for a walk. (But it is raining; second conditional)
  • If he had been late again, I would have fired him. (But he wasn't late; third conditional)
VerbAbout VerbsAction VerbsCausative VerbsContractionsDo and MakeFinite and Nonfinite VerbsGerundInfinitive FormInversionLinking VerbsModal VerbsMay and MightMoodsPhrasal VerbsSay and TellShallStative VerbsThird Person SingularUsed toRegular VerbsIrregular VerbsVerb FormsCompound Verbs
ConditionalConditionalZero ConditionalFirst ConditionalSecond ConditionalThird ConditionalMixed ConditionalInversion in Conditional Sentences
Passive VoicePassive VoicePresent Simple PassivePresent Continuous PassivePast Simple PassivePast Continuous PassivePerfect Tenses PassiveFuture Simple PassiveGoing to PassiveSay / Believe / SupposeGet + Participle
Adverbs of FrequencyAdverbs of FrequencyAdverbs of Frequency - Position in Sentence
QuestionsQuestion TagsRhetorical QuestionsEcho Questions
Reported SpeechReported SpeechModals in Reported SpeechReported Commands and RequestsReported QuestionsPresent Perfect in Reported SpeechFuture Perfect in Reported Speech
Irregular VerbsIrregular Verbs - GroupsIrregular Verbs - Forms
ParticiplesPresent ParticiplePast ParticiplePerfect Participle
Other TopicsWill vs. Going toIf / Even if / Whether / Unless If + Were or If + WasAs If / As Though + Past SubjunctiveHabits Expressed by Will and WouldHad BetterSubject
Read MoreAuxiliary VerbsAuxiliary Verbs: To BeAuxiliary Verbs: To HaveAuxiliary Verbs: To DoWhen To Use the Verb To Be