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Conditionals

If

Conditionals in English grammar are sometimes we called the if clauses.
 
They describe the result of something that might happen (in the present or future) or might have happened but didn't (in the past). They are made using different English verb tenses.

Zero Conditional

We use the so-called zero conditional when the result of the condition is always true, like a scientific fact.
 
If condition (present simple), result (present simple).
  • If you heat water to 100 degrees, it boils.
  • If you sow seeds, plants grow.
  • If you touch electricity, you get shocked.

First Conditional

We use the first conditional when there is a real possibility that this situation or condition will happen in the future.
 
If condition (present simple), result (will + infinitive).
  • If you loan me ten dollars, I will pay you back when I get paid.
  • If they commit crime, they will go to prison.
  • If he drives badly, he will crash.

Second Conditional

We use the second conditional when there is not a real possibility that this situation or condition will happen in the future.
 
If condition (past simple), result (would + infinitive).
  • If I won the lottery, I would buy a boat.
  • If he saved money, he would be rich.
  • If the peoples party won the election, we would get free education.
  • If everyone had clean waterit would prevent waterborne diseases.

Third Conditional

We use the third conditional for a situation or condition did not happen in the past.
 
If condition (past perfect), result (would have + past participle).
  • If I had gone to the interview, I would have got the job.
  • If they had been on time, they would not have missed the train.
  • If he had murdered the thief, he would have been arrested.

Common mistakes

For the first, second and third conditionals above you can not use when you must use if.
 
You can only use when for the zero conditional.
 
Incorrect
  • They would be offended when we didn't accept their invitation.
Correct
  • They would be offended if we didn't accept their invitation.
Incorrect
  • What would you do when you were bitten by a snake?
Correct
  • What would you do if you were bitten by a snake?
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