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English GrammarBasic English Grammar - Conditional Sentences

Basic English Grammar – Conditional Sentences

What is a Conditional Sentence?

A conditional sentence is mainly used for two action pairs that have a “if-condition” and a consequence. Usually, we call the pairs an“if-clause” and the “main-clause”. The basic structure of a conditional sentence is constructed by the following formula:

If (something happens), (consequences)

The tense varies based on different types of conditionals. 

A very simple example:

If you jump down, you will die. (Type 1 conditional)

There are four types of conditional sentences:

  1. Zero Conditional (Type 0)
  2. First Conditional (Type 1)
  3. Second Conditional (Type 2)
  4. Third Conditional (Type 3)

In this tutorial, we will talk about the applications of conditional sentences, especially the second type (type 2) and third type (Type 3). You should pay special attention to their tenses and structure, otherwise you might use them inappropriately.

Conditional Sentences Type 0

Alright let’s begin with the Type 0 conditional sentences which are the easiest to understand, as 0 conditional sentences are used to describe facts, with simple present tense. 

Type 0 Structure as shown below:

If-Clause (Simple Present) + Main-Clause (Simple Present)

0 Conditional Sentence examples:

If you drop into the lava, you will melt. 

If you walk in space without a spacesuit, you will die. 

You will die if you have no oxygen in your body for three minutes. 

Ice melts if you burn it. 

You will get hurt if you hit yourself. 

Applications of zero conditional sentences are not only used for describing facts, it can also be used for statements or simple instructions. You just need to remember that the Type 0 conditionals are usually used in real and possible situations. Let’s take a look at the following examples:

If the ferry is faster, more people will use it as a form of public transport. 

You will get green if you mix yellow and blue together. 

Usually a mother gets sick if her son is sick. 

If you have arrived back home, please call me back. 

Ask Katherine if you are not sure when to come. 

If you want to get a higher mark, please work harder. 

Type 1 Conditional Sentences

We are always predicting what is going to happen next. Type 1 conditional sentences, also known as Type 1 conditionals, are used when a possible if-condition leads to multiple possible results. Like when we predict the weather, stock market, economy, grades, etc. Again, first conditionals are defined by an if-clause and the main clause. Let’s take a look at the following examples:

If you don’t sleep right now, you will not be able to get up tomorrow. 

If Stephen keeps the chair, I will buy a new one.

He will leave if you need the room.

Pretty easy to understand right? You can observe the tenses are obvious: Simple present tense + Simple future tense, since the first conditional is talking about the facts and the future consequences. 

Also the order of the if-clause and the main-clause is optional, like the below examples:

My daughter will finish her homework if she starts now.

My dog will bark if he meets strangers.

The weather in the United States will be so cold if winter arrives. 

Please note that Type 1 conditionals don’t necessarily require you to use “Will”. You can use “may” depending on the level of certainty in your statement.

If Helene sees the results, she may cry.

Kate may tidy up the room if she is free.

Abby may enroll in the event if she sees the poster.

Type 2 Conditional sentences

The second type of conditional sentences assumes that there is  a zero chance of the event occurring, it expresses the impossible future conditions and impossible present conditions. Therefore, we need to pay extra attention to the tense we use. Basically, the verb is in the past tense and the result clause is, use would + verb.

Let me explain the conditional sentences with examples:

If we lived in Denmark, we would be so happy

If we bought the house near the beach, I would be a millionaire. 

The above sentences means that the subject has never lived in Denmark or bought a house near the beach, it’s just making an assumption. 

Compared to the first type of conditional sentences, it talks about the possible situations, however, the second type of conditional sentences, the meaning is so different. The second sentence means that your performance is not good, so there is no chance of a raise. Therefore, the tense of the verb reflects this: the first type is in the present tense, while the second type of hypothetical sentence is in the past tense.

If you use the first type of conditional sentences, it means that there is a possible outcome for a situation, for example, if I am tall, I will be a basketball team member. Compared to the second type of conditional sentences, the meaning is so different, like this example, if I was tall, I would be a basketball team member. Type 1 examples demonstrate hope, the subject may still have a chance to be on the basketball team, however, type 2 means that the subject can’t.

So, remember the tense of the verb reflects the meaning of your sentence. The first type is in the present tense, while the second type of the conditional sentence is in past tense.

Moreover, the second type of conditional sentences can also be used when giving advice to others. For example, take a look at the below examples:

If he was smart, he should not take this risk. 

If Mary really was bad, she would not give you all of her money. 

Type 2 conditional sentence exercises:

I guess by now you can distinguish between the first and second types of conditional sentences. Next, we will explain the type 3 conditional sentence, which is also the most difficult one.

Conditional sentences Type 3

Type 3 conditional sentences are very common in writing and speaking. If they are used correctly, they can be very useful and definitely strengthen your writing skills. 


Third conditionals are used to create a hypothetical assumption in the past, followed by a result that did not really happen (Unreal). Usually, the outcomes are opposite, or contrary to, what the sentence really means. Also, the order of the clauses are not fixed, meaning that you can rearrange the if-clause to start the sentence or mid sentence. 


As we talking about a past assumption, we use will use past perfect tense for the conditional clause followed by past participle of the verb

i.e. Past Perfect + Past Participle

If + PP (Past Perfect)Past Participle

To make it easier to understand, the following common formulae can help:

Subject + would + have + past participle

E.g. Isabella would have made it if she hadbeen notified about the party earlier. 

Type 3 Conditional sentence examples:

If Olivia had been more generous with her wealth, she would have gained authority. 

If Sofia had studied hard, she would have passed the examination. 

If Emma had been protected well, she would not have to die. 

Paul would have survived if the team hadn’t given up to save him.

We would have achieved financial freedom if you had invested in the stock 10 years ago.

Level of certainty: “Would” / “Could” / “Might”

We can decide the level of certainty by using “Would”, “Could” or “Might” when using conditional sentences type 3. 

Noah might have been hurt if the thief had taken the shot. 

If Jacob had been smart enough, he could have figured out the problem. 

Charlotte could have been the champion if she had arrived on time. 

Third conditional negative:

More examples of Type 3 Conditional Sentence:

If I had known Ava was in the restaurant, I would have asked her to buy lunch for me. 

If Victoria had given me the evidence, I could have found the murderer. 

I would have bought you a gift if I had been notified yesterday was your birthday. 

Zoe wouldn’t have felt sick if she hadn’t eaten so much in the buffet. 

Ivy could have become a lawyer if she had finished her master degree in University. 

If Julia had taken the offer, she wouldn’t have had to apply for the government subsidy. 

If Margaret had prepared the driving test, she would have passed.


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