Conditional sentences

English has four conditional forms. Below you’ll find examples and explanations of when and how to use them.

First let’s look at what we mean by a ‘conditional sentence’:

What is a conditional sentence?

  • We use a conditional sentence to say that one event depends on another event—that something can only happen if something else happens first.
  • Conditionals sentences have two parts: the if-clause and the main clause. The main clause depends on the if-clause.
  • We use different types of conditional sentences to express different levels of probability, or to say how realistic something is.

The four conditional forms

Zero conditional
If people eat too much, they get fat.
Zero conditional – examples, when to use

First conditional
If I have time, I will visit you.
First conditional – examples, when to use

Second conditional
If I had more time, I would travel the world.
Second conditional – examples, when to use

Third conditional
If I had had time, I would have gone to the football match.
Third conditional – examples, when to use

See also: Stuart’s article Common mistakes in conditional sentences.