Conditional Sentences | Definition and Examples

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Conditional Sentences | Definition and Examples

What is Conditional Sentence?

Conditional sentences are statements discussing known factors or hypothetical situations and their consequences. Complete conditional sentences contain a conditional clause (often referred to as the if-clause) and the consequence. Consider the following sentences:

  • If a certain condition is true, then a particular result happens.
  • I would travel around the world if I won the lottery.
  • When water reaches 100 degrees, it boils.

Types of Conditional Sentences:

As a rule, conditional sentences are categorized by whether their situations are “real” or “imagined.” However, there are many types and forms of conditional statements, and they can be quite complicated, varying depending on time, its likeliness of occurring, and other factors.

1-Zero Conditional

Real conditionals (also called zero conditionals) are sentences expressing the real conditions for things that happen, not hypothetical things (see Imagined Conditionals). They share true statements about things that will happen or do happen in certain conditions or circumstances.

Zero conditional sentences can come in many forms. But since they are based in fact, they only share past and present situations, NOT possible future situations. So, we write them using a combination of past and present tenses.

In many zero conditional sentences, both clauses are in the present simple tense, like this:

  • If you are happy, I am happy.
  • If there is snow, we make snowmen.
  • He cleans if I cook.
  • If you don’t mind, I need a glass of water.

2-First Conditional

The first conditional shares the result of situation in the future that we think is pretty likely to happen. Its form uses a conditional clause in the present simple, and the main clause in the future tense. The main clause will use a modal, like would, should, could, will, may, might, or can. Here are some examples:

  • If I sleep now, I will be up all night.
  • If I do well on my SATs, I could go to Harvard.
  • If you take the highway, you might hit traffic.
  • If he likes cookies, you should bake some for him.


3-Second Conditional

What is a second conditional sentence? A second conditional sentence is a sentence that can express two ideas.

First, it might express things in the future that are unlikely to happen. Second, it is used to express an idea that is not true because it is impossible.

The dependent clause of the second conditional begins with “if” and uses the past simple tense. The independent clause of the second conditional uses “would” plus the base form of a verb.

Examples of second conditional:

  • If I knew the answer, I would tell you.
  • If I were you, I would not leave tonight.
  • If I were president, I would fix the system.


4-Third Conditional

What is a third conditional sentence? A third conditional sentence expresses a past idea that did not occur. The third conditional sentence expresses an imagined result of that past event that did not occur. In other words, it is unreal.

The dependent clause of the third conditional begins with “if” and uses the past perfect tense. The independent clause of the third conditional uses “would” have plus the past participle of a verb.

Examples of third conditional:

  • If I had listened, I would have not gotten lost.
  • If he had gone to lunch, you would have answered his calls.
  • I would have wrapped his present if he had left.

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