English Learner Article English Conditionals: An Introduction

Summary: Everything you need to know about English Conditionals.

By: |Audience: All|Category: English Grammar Usage Articles & Notes


The English Conditional

There are a number of structures in English that are called the conditionals which are used to talk about possible or imaginary situations. A "Condition" is a "situation or circumstance".

For example: If a certain condition is true, then a particular result happens.

There are four basic conditionals that we use in English.

There are some more conditionals formed by mixing some of these four. To learn more about these, see our glossary entry: English Conditionals.

Structure of Conditional Sentences

The structure of the conditionals is straightforward. There are two basic possibilities in terms of order in the sentence:

IF Condition Result
If it rains, we will get wet

or like this:

Result IF Condition
We will get wet if it rains.

Notice that we only use a comma in the first example.

Conditionals: Time and Probability Table


Probability Conditional Example Time
Certain zero conditional If you heat water to 100 degrees celsius, it boils any time
Likely first conditional If it rains, I will stay in. future
Unlikely second conditional If I won the lottery, I would retire. future
Impossible second conditional If I had the money, I would lend it to you present
Impossible third conditional If I had seen him, I would have given him the message. past
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