Introduction: There are several structures in English which are called conditionals. 'Condition' means 'situation or circumstance'. If a particular condition is true, then a particular result happens. There are three basic conditionals that we use very often. There are some more conditionals that we do not use so often. The conditionals are used to talk about real or unreal situations. They are also sometimes called if-clauses. Real Conditional describes real-life situations. Unreal Conditional describes unreal or imaginary situations.
If a certain condition is true, then a particular result happens.
There are four basic conditionals that we use in English.
Zero Conditional: Certainty
The Zero Conditional is used for things that are always true as long as the condition is met.
Formation: If + present simple + present simple
|If||Present simple You heat water to 100∘ Celsius||Present simple It boils||Fact-universal|
|If||Present simple I drink Coffee||Present simple I get a headache||Fact- personal|
In these examples, the result will always occur if the condition is met, so the time is not important.
First Conditional: A real possibility in the future
A First Conditional sentence is for future actions dependent on the result of another future action or event, where there is a reasonable possibility of the conditions for the action being satisfied.
Formation: if + present simple + will
If she gets good grades, she will go to university.
|If||She gets good grades,||She will go to university||If the condition is met then she definitely will go|
|If||He gets good grades,||He may go to university||He is not sure about going to university|
|If||He gets good grades||She should go to university||The speaker is expressing his or her opinion giving advice|
|If||He gets good grades||He can go to university||This means that it is possible|
|If||He gets good grades||She could go to university||This means that it is possible but not that likely.|
|If||He gets good grades||He might go to university||This means that it is possible but not that likely.|
Second Conditional: Imaginary Present or Unlikely Future
The Second Conditional can be used to talk about imaginary present situations, where we are imagining something different from what is really the case. We can also use it to talk about things in the future that are unlikely to happen, as the condition is unlikely to be met. We use the past tense in the condition part and would for the result.
Formation: if + past simple, + would + base form
If I were you, I'd tell her,
|Past time||Present||would + base verb||Impossible|
|If||I had the time||I would learn Italian||I don't have the time so I'm not going to learn Italian.|
|Past simple||Future||Would + base verb||Unlikely|
|If||I won the lottery||I would travel around the world||There's a very small chance of winning the lottery so the trip is unlikely|
Third Conditional: Imaginary Past
The Third Conditional is used when we are talking about the past and imagining something different from what actually happened, that means for imaginary past actions, where the conditions for the action were not satisfied.
Formation: If + past perfect, + would have + past participle
If I had known, I would have helped. I didn't know and didn't help.
|Past perfect||Would have + past participle|
|If||I had known||I would have helped||Although this didn't happen the speaker is sure about the result.|
|If||I had known||I could have helped||Although this didn't happen the result is only a possibility.|
|If||I had known||I might have helped||Although this didn't happen the result is only a possibility.|
|If||You had known||You should have helped||Although this didn't happen it is only a good suggestion or piece of advice.|