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Conditionals – First, Second and Third

by John January 04, 2021

If you could become fluent in any language, which language would you choose?
I hope you said English! If you didn’t, that is quite alright too.
Learning a new language takes time and effort but it’s well worth it.

It is particularly important to learn grammar that we use in everyday language.

You’ve heard of conditionals before. Well we are going to review them in this blog post.
We will talk about:

The First conditional
The second conditional
The third conditional

The First conditional - Future possibilitiees

The First conditional is about Future possibilities, things that may or may not happen in the Future depending on a certain circumstance.

Supposing your friend asks you to play football tomorrow and you really want to play but can only go depending on work, you might say: If I have no work tomorrow, I’ll play football.

This suggests that you won’t play football if you need to work.

Look at some more possible examples:

I will go to your party if you give me a lift. ( Going to the party depends on a lift)

She will date you if you buy her dinner. (Dating her is conditional on paying for the dinner)

We will pass the test if you study. (Passing the test is conditional on studying)

We form the first conditional: If +present simple, will/won’t  + infinitive

We can also put the if clause in the middle: will + infinitive + if + present simple

Note: If we put ‘if’ at the beginning of the sentence, we need to use a comma after the ‘if’ clause.

The First conditional

We use the first conditional to talk about a real possibility in the future

If + present + will/won’t + infinitive

The Second conditional - Imaginary situations

We use the Second conditional for imaginary or hypothetical situations that could be now or in the future.

We often think and talk about what we would do if we had a million euro:

“If I were a millionaire, I would buy a big house.”

The present reality is that I am not a millionaire, and so I cannot buy a big house. I am just dreaming.

Take a look at some more examples:

“If she won the lottery, she would buy a Ferrari.”

“If I was British, I could speak English fluently.”

“If I were on holidays, I would be on a beach.”

To form the second conditional we use : If + past simple + would do/infinitive

The Second conditional

We use the second conditional to talk about imaginary situations.

If + past simple + would/wouldn’t + infinitive

The Third conditional

We use the third conditional to talk about imaginary situations in the past, in other words, things that didn’t happen in the past but could have if the situation was different.

If I didn’t get much sleep because I went to bed late, I can say:

“If I had gone to bed earlier last night, I would have slept more”

The third conditional expresses how things could have been like.

Check out some more examples:

“If I had studied harder in the past, I would have passed the test.”

“If he hadn’t called the doctor, he would not have got the medicine.”

“If they had saved some money, they would have bought a house.”

To make the third conditional we use: If + past perfect + would/wouldn’t have + past participle

The Third conditional

We use the third conditional to talk about imaginary situations in the past.

If + past perfect + would/wouldn’t have + past participle

Test Yourself

Use the 1st, 2nd or 3rd conditional to make a sentence for each of these situations.

Example: Andrew arrived at the airport late and missed the flight.

Answer: If Andrew had arrived at the airport early, he wouldn’t have missed his flight.

  1. I will go to her party on condition that I have a lift.
  2. In theory I would buy a big house on condition that I won the lottery.
  3. Nikola is very tired today as she went to bed late last night.
  4. Marina didn’t get married to the man because she didn’t love him.

Test Yourself

Choose the correct answer

2

Conditionals

1 / 10

We form the third conditional:

2 / 10

We form the second conditional:

3 / 10

We form the 1st conditional:

4 / 10

I would _________(invite) her to my birthday party if she _____(to be) nice to me.

5 / 10

They _____(cook) pasta tonight if she ______(remember) to buy the pasta sauce.

6 / 10

If she ______(make) a list, she wouldn't _______(forget) what to buy at the supermarket this morning.

7 / 10

If I _____(win) a million euro, I ________(buy) a car.

8 / 10

We use third conditional to talk about...

9 / 10

We use the second conditional to talk about...

10 / 10

We use the First conditional to talk about...

Your score is

If you enjoyed this post and would like to know more, stay tuned for Part 2 where we’ll discuss mixed conditionals.

Thank you for reading our post. You’ll find more English grammar tips elsewhere on our site and if you’d like information on our English courses in Dublin, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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