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Conditional Sentence






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Conditional Sentences in English Grammar

Comprehensive Definition, Description, Examples & Rules 

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A conditional sentence states a condition and the outcome that would occur if the condition was met. Zero, first, and second conditional sentences are the most common in English, followed by third conditional sentences.

The “if” or conditional clause and the main clause make up the two parts of a conditional sentence. The condition is stated in the “if” clause, and the outcome is stated in the main clause.

While “if,” “unless,” “provided that,” “in case,” and “suppose” are common starters for the if clause, additional conjunctions may be used as well. The main phrase of a conditional sentence must always employ the present tense, but the “if” clause’s verb may be in any tense appropriate to the situation being stated.

Each kind of conditional statement has an example below:

  • Regardless of whether or not it rains, the earth will be soaked. (This conditional mode communicates a universal reality.)

  • First if: I’ll to the gym tonight if I have time. (This conditional indicates a future circumstance and its conceivable or probable outcome.)

  • Second if: I would purchase a home if I won the lotto. (This tense of the conditional indicates a hypothetical scenario and its implausible or fantastical outcome.)

  • A third possibility: If I had put in more time studying, I would have done better on the test. (This conditional represents an imaginary situation that occurred in the past and its consequences.)

Types of Conditional Sentences

First Conditional Sentences

The first conditional expresses a future scenario and its likely outcome using a conditional statement. It’s used to convey the certainty with which one anticipates a certain result from a certain set of given circumstances.

The first conditional sentences had the form “If + present tense, will + base verb.”

The condition is stated in the “if” clause, which is denoted by the preposition “if” and the use of a present tense verb. The main phrase starts with “will” and the bare form of the verb to indicate the outcome.

For instance, “I plan to stay indoors if it rains.”

It rains in the “if” clause to indicate the condition, and the main clause utilizes “will” followed by the base form of the verb “stay” to express the outcome, which is remaining at home.

In addition to “can,” “may,” and “might,” various models can be used to make the first conditional convey varying degrees of probability. A typical justification for procrastination is something like, “If I finish my work early, I may go to the cinema.”

Depending on the circumstances, the first conditional may be used to discuss potential plans, arrangements, or projections. Warnings and suggestions may also be sent in this way.

Second Conditional Sentences

The second conditional expresses the relationship between a circumstance that is very improbable or hypothetical and its likely outcome. To do this, we envisage a scenario that is unlikely to occur and the consequences of that scenario in our minds.

Second conditional sentences are built as follows: “If + past tense, would + base verb.”

The hypothetical condition is expressed in the past tense of the verb in the “if” clause. The main phrase employs the basic form of the verb followed by “would” to describe the likely outcome.

The following is an example: “If I won the game, I would buy a yacht.”

In this example, the main clause uses “would” followed by the base form of the word “buy” to convey the most likely outcome (purchasing a boat), while the “if” clause uses the past tense verb “won” to express the hypothetical condition (winning the lottery).

It’s important to remember that the second conditional may be created with a wide variety of modal verbs, including “could,” “might,” and “should,” to convey varying degrees of likelihood. For instance, “I could learn a new language if I had more time.”

The second conditional is often used for the expression of hypothetical or fictitious circumstances, for the offering of ideas or advice, and for the voicing of preferences and wants.

Third Conditional Sentences

The third conditional expresses the speaker’s opinion regarding the outcome of a hypothetical circumstance that has never occurred before. It’s employed when imagining what would have happened if an event in the past had a different conclusion.

Third conditional sentences have this form: “If + past perfect, would have + past participle.”

The “if” clause employs the past perfect tense to convey the hypothetical situation. The main phrase utilizes “would have” followed by the past participle of the verb to convey the likely outcome.

An example of this would be the statement “If I had studied harder, I would have passed the exam.”

The “if” clause employs the past perfect tense to indicate the hypothetical condition (studying harder), while the main phrase uses “would have” next to the past participle of the verb “pass” to express the likely consequence (passing the test).

To represent varying degrees of possibility, the third conditional may also be used with additional modal verbs, such as “could have,” “might have,” and “should have.” I could have attended the party if I had known about it, for instance.

When expressing remorse, speculating on potential other scenarios, or making speculative claims about the past, the third conditional is a common choice of tense.

Zero Conditional Sentences

When referring to universal truths, scientific facts, or other conditions that are true at all times, the zero conditional is employed. Now one might wonder what does zero conditional mean? Zero conditional is used to specify a strict cause-and-effect connection in which the outcome is always guaranteed under certain conditions.

There is no “if” in a zero conditional phrase, hence the construction is “if + present simple, present simple.”

Because they are stating universal facts or circumstances that always occur whenever the condition is satisfied, both the “if” clause and the main sentence are written in the present simple tense.

This is shown by the statement, “If it rains, the streets get wet.”

The condition (rain) and the outcome (wet streets) are both stated in the current simple tense inside this sentence “if” clause and main clause, respectively.

Always true scientific facts, universal truths, and cause-and-effect interactions are often expressed using the zero conditional. It may also be used to make declarations or directions concerning the here and now.

Mixed Conditionals

The use of mixed conditionals enables speakers to represent a hypothetical scenario by combining the past, present, and future conditional forms inside the same phrase.

Mixed conditionals may be divided into two categories:

The consequences of a hypothetical incident that occurred in the past and their current effects are described by this mixed conditional.

Conditional (would, could, may + present participle) and past perfect (if + past perfect) tenses are used.

Here’s an example: in the present conditional, I would be able to speak Spanish well if I had studied more in the past.

Since the speaker did not put sufficient time and effort into learning Spanish in the past, they are unable to do so at the present and are hence not proficient in the language.

This mixed conditional depicts a possible current occurrence and its previous repercussions, or results.

Conditional forms of the past (would/could/might + have + past participle) are used in an “if” + past simple, “past perfect” framework.

I would have completed the task earlier (past perfect conditional) if I had more time (past simple).

The speaker did not complete the project by now since they did not have enough time at the time, which is now the existing circumstance.

Mixed conditionals allow for a more nuanced expression of hypothetical scenarios, remorse, and desire. Depending on the context, you should use the right tense for the circumstance and its consequence.

Inverted Conditionals

The clauses of an inverted conditional are switched around from the usual conditional sentence structure. The inverted conditional does not begin with “if” like regular conditionals. As an alternative, it is prefaced with an adverb like “should,” “were,” “had,” or “only if.”

If you want to appear more literary or academic, try using an inverted conditional to describe a hypothetical or improbable scenario.

Some inverted conditionals are as follows:

Needs/needs to

Should + subject + main clause verb in basic form

To illustrate, if he calls, kindly tell him not to bother me.

A hypothetical circumstance (him phoning) is set up in the inverted conditional, and the result (that the speaker is unavailable) is given in the main phrase.


Were + subject + main clause verb in the basic form

If I won the lotto, for instance, I would use the money to see the globe.

The main phrase offers the result (global trip) while the inverted conditional adds the improbable hypothetical case (winning the lottery).


Have + subject + past tense = major clause structure

She would have packed an umbrella if she had known it was going to rain.

Considering it was going to rain in the past tense is a hypothetical circumstance introduced by the inverted conditional, with the result (carrying an umbrella) provided by the main sentence.

Inverted conditionals are a great tool for conveying hypothetical circumstances succinctly and elegantly, as well as for adding diversity to your writing and speech.

Advanced Conditional Sentences

Nested conditionals and other sophisticated formulations using several clauses and conditional connections are examples of conditional structures.

When one conditional structure is embedded inside another, the result is a nested conditional. This may entail a chain of conditionals, with each subsequent condition depending on the previous one.

I could have gotten a better grade on the test if I had studied more. I may have been admitted to the course if I had done better on the test.

There are two layered conditional structures in this example. The first conditional is about the past, whereas the second is about the here and now or the future.

Complex structures like this often make use of hypothetical or implausible scenarios to communicate notions that would be difficult to explain using standard conditional forms.

I’d give a million dollars to charity if I won the lottery. (Hybrid of the subjunctive and the conditional

I could have gotten a better grade on the test if I had studied more. (Fantastical predicate)

Splitting a simple phrase in two with a relative pronoun or conjunction creates what is called a “cleft sentence,” a complicated statement.

For instance, it wasn’t until I crammed the test that I finally passed it.

Here, the line “I passed the exam” is broken into two sections, with “only when” connecting them.

We have already covered inverted conditionals, so we’ll go right to extended conditionals. When describing a hypothetical circumstance, extended conditionals often include many clauses.

The weather prevented us from going to the beach, for instance. We had planned to go out, but the weather kept us indoors where we could enjoy a movie.

There are two phrases in this example, one describing what would have happened if it hadn’t rained (going to the beach) and the other describing what did happen (staying at home while it was raining).

Use these intricate conditional constructs to give your work or speaking more depth and complexity. To convey the correct meaning, their usage requires meticulous attention to grammar and structure.

Conditional Grammar

Common grammatical patterns and rules associated with conditional sentences

Conditional grammar conventions are  often used when constructing a conditional phrase. Numerous linguistic patterns and principles govern the construction of conditional statements. Here are a few of the most frequent:

  • The tense of the main sentence is determined by the tense of the “if” clause. For instance, the main sentence will use the conditional form or past participle if the “if” clause is written in the past tense. If the conditional phrase after “if” is written in the present tense, the main sentence will do the same.

  • The usage of modal verbs, such as “can,” “could,” “may,” “might,” “should,” “shall,” “will,” and “would,” is prevalent in conditional phrases. Depending on the context, these verbs might convey ideas of possibility, capability, permission, duty, or forecasting.

  • The subject and auxiliary verb in the main phrase of certain conditional statements is switched. This is often used to emphasize a point or set a serious tone. For instance: Please let me know if there’s anything I can do.

  • Separating the “if” clause from the main phrase in a conditional sentence often requires the use of commas. No comma is required if the “if” clause follows the main sentence.

  • Certain words and phrases are used to initiate conditional sentences; for example, “if,” “provided that,” “in case,” “unless,” and “as long as.” This shows that the result of the main clause is contingent on the condition specified in the “if” clause.

  • While the zero conditional is most often employed to convey broad facts or consistent practice, there are circumstances in which it is more appropriately used.

The ability to recognize and create various conditional sentences depends on one’s familiarity with basic grammatical patterns and rules. It’s crucial to express the proper idea and prevent frequent mistakes by using these structures correctly.

Avoiding the Most Frequent Conditional Errors

Incorrect use of conditionals is prevalent; here are some examples:

  • Confusion of verb tenses: make sure the tense of the verb in the “if” clause agrees with that of the main phrase. Confusion or a divergent interpretation may result from the use of incorrect verb tenses.

  • Make sure you’re using the right conditional for the job by keeping in mind that various conditionals communicate varying levels of probability.

  • In many circumstances, a comma is required to denote a break between an “if” clause and the main phrase, however, this is often overlooked. Run-on phrases and muddled thinking are the results of skipping the comma.

  • While modal verbs are useful in conditional statements, they may sound stilted and formal if used excessively.

  • Accidentally moving the subject before the auxiliary verb: that’s not how inverted conditionals work. Grammar mistakes may occur when the topic is overlooked.

  • Applying the zero conditional to implausible or fictitious circumstances might lead to grammatical errors or misunderstanding since the zero conditional is more often employed for general facts or habits.

You may improve your usage of conditional statements in writing and speech by keeping these blunders in mind. Make sure your phrases are grammatically sound and communicate the desired meaning by revising and proofreading.

How do I use "supposing that" in a conditional sentence?

The following is an example of a conditional statement using “supposing that”:

  • Assuming + subject + past simple verb, subject + would/could/might + verb in its most fundamental form.

For instance:

If I were rich, I’d put the money on a new automobile.

If she spoke Spanish, she may visit Spain more often.

We may have to postpone the picnic if it rains tomorrow.

Keep in mind that the words “assuming that” and “if” are synonyms for “supposing that.” However, beginning a conditional statement with “supposing that” is more formal and less frequent.

Conditional Sentence Infographic

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Key Takeaways

  1. The if-clause (condition) and the main clause (outcome) make up the two halves of a conditional sentence.

  2. Zero, first, second, and third conditional sentences are the four most common forms of conditional sentences.

  3. You may use conditional phrases to talk about everything from what-if scenarios to forecasts to pieces of advice.

  4. The usage of modal verbs, conjunctions, and past tense verbs are all examples of standard grammatical patterns and norms for conditional sentences.

  5. Avoid the pitfalls of inappropriate verb tense use, missing commas, and failing to distinguish between the many conditional sentence forms while writing your phrases.

  6. Learning this grammatical idea is best accomplished by repeated practice and familiarity with a wide range of conditional sentence patterns and examples.


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