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The conditionals – how and when to use them.

The English language is full of tricky grammar which makes even the most confident English speaker feel confused! The conditionals are just one of those difficult grammatical aspects that you will need to overcome. Use our handy conditional guide to help you understand them!

Zero Conditional-

If+ Present Tense+ Present Tense.

This is used to express facts.

  • “When you freeze water, it becomes Ice.”
  • “If you close the curtains, I will not be able to see.”


First Conditional-

If+ Present Tense+ Future Tense.

This talks about something that is possible or probable in the future.

  • “If you can come over tonight, we will have a party.”
  • “If you don’t sleep tonight, you will be tired.”


Second Conditional-

If+ Past Tense+ would/could/might+ infinitive verb.

Used for when something is very unlikely in the present or future.

  • “If you went to space, you would float about.”
  • “If it was snowing. Would you build a snowman?”


Third Conditional-

If+ Past Perfect+ would/could/might +have +past participle of the verb.

This is used when we talk about past action and its results.

  • “If I hadn’t gone to Australia. I would not have met my sweetheart.”
  • “If I had waited. I could have bought my ticket cheaper.”


Variations + Mixed Conditionals-

The conditionals are quite flexible in the form they can take, so don’t be surprised to see forms such as:

  • “If you don’t go, I’m going to call the police.” (going to instead of will.)
  • “If you took some money, you could buy something nice.” (using could, might, should, etc., instead of would.)

This is the most common form of mixed conditional:

  • “If you haven’t eaten that octopus (past), I wouldn’t feel so sick (present.)


Typical Errors-

Common mistakes are:

  • “If I win the lottery, I bought a yacht.” (Using the past tense rather than would buy.)
  • “If I win the lottery, I will buy a yacht.” (This is hypothetical and we should really use the second conditional.)
Practice your conditionals in the comments below! 😀
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