Conditional Sentences

Introduction to Conditional Tenses

To have a better understanding of conditional tenses we need to refresh our minds of what tenses and clauses are.

Tenses refer to the states of verbs (actions), that is the forms of actions at given times.

Clauses are groups of words with a verb and a subject.

The conditional is an ‘if clause’ put with a ‘main clause’ that is closely related to form a sentence.

The Conditional Formula: if clause + main clause.

The conditional is used to speculate outcomes of actions. Examples: what could happen, what might have happened, and what we wish would happen.

Types of Conditional Tenses

Zero Conditional

Referred to as the Present Real Conditional, they are usually used to express general truths and not hypothetical circumstances, that is, real or possible situations that is happening or always happens.

Formula: present real conditional = simple present if clause + simple present main clause.


If you run + you get tired.
If it snows + it gets cold.

Type 1 Conditional

Referred to as Present/Future Real Conditionals are used to express present or future conditions which have real or probable results. The real or probable result uses future constructions with “will” or “shall”.

Formula of present/future real conditional = simple present if clause + simple future main clause.


If you fall + you will get hurt.
If it rains today + you will get wet.

Type 2 Conditional

Referred to as Present Unreal Conditionals describe now or any moment against unreal or hypothetical situations. The main clauses usually describe uncertain outcomes using conditional constructions with the auxiliary ‘would’.

Formula: simple past if clause + present or present continuous conditional main clause.


If you trained + you would be playing now.
If I spoke French + I would be a languages teacher.

Type 3 Conditional

Referred to as Past Unreal Conditionals are used to describe past unreal situations and their probable past results. The facts are based on the opposite of what is expressed.

Formula of past unreal conditional = past perfect if clause + perfect or perfect continuous conditional main clause.


If it had snowed + you would have gotten cold.
If you had trained harder + you would have started the squad.

Mixed Conditional

They come in two forms which is the present result of a past condition and the past result of a present or continuous condition.

Present Result of a Past Condition

These conditions refer to past situations that have consequences to the present.

Formula A: past perfect if clause + present conditional main clause.


If I hadn’t found Christ + I wouldn’t have succeeded in life.
If you had studied hard + you wouldn’t be failing now.

Past Result of a Present or Continuing Condition

These are past consequences whose conditions are not limited to the past.

Formula B: simple past if clause + perfect conditional main clause.


If we had asked for directions + we wouldn’t be lost.
If I had learned French + I would have lived in Paris.

Important note

Conditionals are referred to have 4 or 5 types because some people do not count the zero conditional because in zero conditional sentences, the word “if” can usually be replaced by the word “when” without changing the meaning.

Also, Conditionals are argued as moods amongst other schools of thought.

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