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 happen only 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

We use the zero conditional to express that a particular condition always has the same result. We are saying that something is always true or is a fact:

  • If people eat too much, they get fat.

See more: Zero conditional – examples, when to use

First conditional

We use the first conditional to express a possible condition and its result in the future:

  • If I have time, I will visit you.

First conditional – examples, when to use

Second conditional

We use the second conditional to express an unreal or improbable condition and its result in the present or future:

  • If I had more time, I would travel the world.

See more: Second conditional – examples, when to use

Third conditional

We use the third conditional to express a theoretical past situation and its theoretical result in the past:

  • If I had had time, I would have gone to the football match.

See more: Third conditional – examples, when to use

See also

Stuart’s article Common mistakes in conditional sentences.