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||it rains,||we will get wet|
or like this:
|We will get wet||if||it rains.|
Notice that we only use a comma in the first example.
Conditionals: Time and Probability Table
|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|