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Understanding Conditional Sentences And Their Types

Conditional sentences in English are sentences that express one thing contingent on something else. These sentences have two clauses – conditional clause, which usually contain a word like “if,” and a consequence. In this blog, we explain to you everything about conditional sentences and their different types. 

Understanding Conditional Sentences And Their Types | English Medium

What Are Conditional Sentences?

We use conditional sentences to talk about hypotheticals (i.e., things that might happen). Complete conditional sentences contain a conditional clause (often referred to as the if-clause) and the consequence. Consider the following sentences:

  • If a certain condition is true, then a particular result happens.
  • I would travel around the world if I won the lottery.
  • When water reaches 100 degrees, it boils.

These sentences are of four types: 

  1. Zero Conditional Sentences
  2. First Conditional Sentences
  3. Second Conditional Sentences
  4. Third Conditional Sentences 

Let us now individually understand these types in detail. 

The Zero Conditional

Type zero conditional is used to talk about general truths and general consequences. When you use a zero conditional, you’re talking about a general truth rather than a specific instance of something. The typical form of these sentences is: 

If (or when) [condition] occurs, [result] happens.

Here are a few examples: 

  1. If I eat too much cheese, I fall sick. 
  2. When people drink alcohol, their health suffers. 

Notice that both sentences use the simple present tense form. 

The First Conditional

We use type one conditionals for likely or plausible future situations and their consequences. Their typical form is: 

If [condition] happens, [result] will happen 

Take a look at these examples: 

  1. If you get some sleep now, you will feel better tomorrow. 
  2. If you set your mind to a goal, you’ll eventually achieve it.

The conditional clause, though, is still in the simple present tense.

The Second Conditional

The second type expresses unlikely or unreal situations and their consequences. Their usual form is: 

If [condition] happened, [result] would happen.

Take a look at these examples: 

  1. If I knew the solution, I would help you.
  2. If I inherited a billion dollars, I would travel the world. 

These sentences should be written using the simple past tense in the if-clause and an auxiliary modal verb in the main clause. 

The Third Conditional

Type three conditionals express an unreal past condition and its likely results had it occurred. Their usual form is: 

If [condition] had happened, [result] would have happened

We use the past perfect tense for the conditional in this case, while the result is usually in the perfect conditional form. 

Here are a few examples: 

  1. If you had told me you needed a pencil, I would have gotten an extra.
  2. If I had got up earlier, I would have been on time to school.

Mixed Type Conditionals

A mixed type conditional is one in which the conditional clause and main clause happen in different times. For example:

  1. If we had asked for directions, we would be there now.

Here, the conditional clause (If we had asked for directions) is in the past perfect, while the result (we would be there now) is in the simple present conditional tense. It is therefore a mix of type three and type two above.

Mixed conditionals like this are quite common, so it’s important to pay attention to the tense of each clause when writing conditional sentences! 

Conditional sentences can be quite complex to understand especially if you’re a beginner at learning English. We hope this article helped you! If you still have any queries or feedback for us, write to us at

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