English Learner Article English Conditionals: First Conditional

Summary: How to use the first conditional in English

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First Conditional: A real possibility in the future

A First Conditional sentence is one connecting two future actions, where one must take place before the second is possible. Take a student who wants to go to university but hasn't got the results of their exams yet. They cannot go to university until they have received their results. In the case of a good student who is expected to get good grades, then there is a good possibility of achieving the marks required to get to university, so the following sentence could be used:

IF Condition Result
  present simple WILL + base verb
If she gets good grades, she will go to university.

We are talking about the future, but we use a present tense for the condition and will for the result. In this case, the person is sure about going to university. We can use other modal verbs in the result part of the sentence:


IF Condition Result Possibility
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 she 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 she 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.

We can also use different present forms in the condition part of the sentence:

IF Condition Reason for tense Result
  present simple an action in the future  
If I see her,   I'll ask her about it.
  present progressive an unfinished present action  
If they are still working,   I'll go home.
  present progressive a future arrangement  
If they are going,   I'll stay at home.
  present perfect a finished action related to now  
If you have finished your meal,   I'll clear away the plates.
  WILL + base verb making an agreement WILL + base verb
If you will work late today,   I will let you have Friday off.
  WILL + base verb expressing displeasure because someone insists on doing something WILL + base verb
If you will drive too fast,   the police will stop you.
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