The 4 Conditionals
Conditional sentences are usually grouped into four main types.
The zero conditional
The zero conditional is used to talk about common states or events
Form: if/when + present simple + present simple
If she knows you well, she is more talkative.
We say hello when we see each other in the street.
The first conditional
The first conditional is used to talk about possible future states or events.
Form = if/when+ present simple/continuous+ will / be going to
If you go away to study, you’ll meet a lot of new people.
I‘m going to start without him if he doesn’t come soon.
The second conditional
The second conditional is used to talk about unlikely or imaginary states or events in the present or future.
Form: if + past simple/continuous + would/could/should/might
If she spoke Spanish, she could apply for the job in Madrid.)
They would leave their jobs and travel the world if they had the money.
With be, the second conditional uses were instead of was in formal contexts.
If I were/was good at languages, I‘d learn Japanese.
The third conditional
The third conditional is used to talk about imaginary states or events in the past.
Form: if+ past perfect + would/could/should/might + have + past participle
If we had studied other cultures at school, we might have been more confident about travelling.
If you had arrived in Japan three months ago, you would have seen the cherry blossom.
Notice that when the if clause is first in the sentence, it is followed by o comma. There is no comma when the main clause comes first.
The Mixed conditionals
Different conditional forms are sometimes mixed, particularly second and third conditionals.
• A third conditional cause is sometimes linked to a second conditional result to show the imaginary present result of an imaginary past event or situation.
If my parents had never met, I wouldn’t be here now!
• A second conditional cause is sometimes linked to a third conditional result to show how an ongoing situation produced an effect in the past.
If I knew about computers, I would have applied for that IT job.
There are a number of other conditional sentences formed with different patterns of tenses.
• if/when+ present simple+ imperative
This is used to make suggestions or to give advice or instructions.
If you need a translator, please let me know.
Get off the train when you get lo the third station.
• if/when + present simple/present perfect + can/could/would/should/might
This is often used with suggestions or advice.
She could give Martin the message if she sees him later.
If you‘ve studied English, you shrould try to speak it.
• We can use will after if in polite requests.
If you will just wait a moment, I’ll tell Mr Jackson you’re here.
• To make the request more polite, we can use would.
If you would take a seat for a moment, I’ll let Mr Jackson know you’re here.
• We can replace if with should at the beginning of the clause, particularly in very formal or literary English.
Should you wish to extend your stay, please inform reception.
• We can use If it was/were not for or had not been for to say that one situation is dependent on another situation or person.
I’d go out if it wasn’t for this rain.
If it hadn’t been for the tour guide, we would never have seen those carvings in the caves.
• We can use if + was/were + to + infinitive to talk about imaginary future situations
If the technology were to become available, we would be able to travel across the world in just a couple of hours.
• We can use if so, given, otherwise and provided instead of if. We can use unless instead of if … not.
Given the increase in social-networking sites, it’s easy to make new friends from around the world.
I don’t want to go unless you come with me.