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:

IFConditionResult
 present simpleWILL + base verb
Ifshe 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:


IFConditionResultPossibility
Ifshe gets good grades,she will go to university.If the condition is met, then she definitely will go
Ifhe gets good grades,he may go to university.He is not sure about going to university.
Ifshe gets good grades,she should go to university.The speaker is expressing his or her opinion, giving advice.
Ifhe gets good grades,he can go to university.This means that it is possible.
Ifshe gets good grades,she could go to university.This means that it is possible, but not that likely.
Ifhe 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:

IFConditionReason for tenseResult
 present simplean action in the future 
IfI see her, I'll ask her about it.
 present progressivean unfinished present action 
Ifthey are still working, I'll go home.
 present progressivea future arrangement 
Ifthey are going, I'll stay at home.
 present perfecta finished action related to now 
Ifyou have finished your meal, I'll clear away the plates.
 WILL + base verbmaking an agreementWILL + base verb
Ifyou will work late today, I will let you have Friday off.
 WILL + base verbexpressing displeasure because someone insists on doing somethingWILL + base verb
Ifyou will drive too fast, the police will stop you.
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