Real conditionals – First conditional sentences
Normally conditional sentences have two parts (clauses)
One part (clause) which usually starts with “if” gives a condition, the other part gives us a result if that condition is true.
- If it rains (conditional clause), I will take an umbrella (result clause)
We saw that with the Zero Conditional the result is known. If can be substituted for every time, when or whenever with no change in meaning.
- If you put wood in a fire, it burns.
- Whenever you put wood in a fire, it burns
The First Conditional is also a Real conditional to show a situation that is possible:
- If she studies well, she’ll get a place at Oxford.
The Form is usually If + present tense, will + basic infinitive
- If it rains, I will take an umbrella or I will take an umbrella if it rains
The result is possible if the “condition” in the if clause is met.
- If I see him, I’ll give him your message. (I want to give him your message but first I need to see him)
- He’ll be more relaxed if he meditates. (It’s very likely that he’ll be more relaxed but first he needs to meditate)
- If Mary studies well, she’ll get a place at Oxford. (She is capable of getting a place at Oxford, but first she needs to study hard)
- If they have extra money at the end of the month, they’ll give it to charity. (They want to give some money to charity, but it depends on having money left at the end of the month)
1- In this type of conditional it is not possible to substitute “if” for “when, whenever or every time”
2- It is possible, in the first conditional, to use will in both parts (clauses) of the sentence. Will in the if clause shows willingness (volition) to do something and not future time:
- If you’ll help me, I’ll be very grateful (= if you’re willing to help me)
- If she’ll study hard, she’ll get a place at Harvard. (= if she’s willing to study hard)
- If he’ll meditate, he’ll be able to concentrate more. (= if he is willing to meditate)
3- Will cannot be used in if clauses when it doesn’t show willingness
- If they’ll have extra money, they’ll put in a special account. Is not possible, it is illogical.
- If I’ll see him, I’ll tell him what you said Is not possible, it is illogical.
4- May or might can also be used in this type of conditional sentence:
- If I arrive early, I may/might go to the party. (it’s possible I will go to the party, but first I need to arrive early)
- If Mike doesn’t have a lot of work, he may/might go to rugby training. (it’s possible that Mike will go to training, but not if he has a lot of work)
First Conditional with the imperative
5- An imperative can also be used in the result clause
- If you finish painting the bedroom, start the bathroom
- If you arrive on time, come to the meeting
- If it rains, take an umbrella
- If the food is cold, put it in the microwave
- If you can’t find the answer, ask your teacher
Second and third conditionals – Unreal conditionals
The Unreal conditionals are classified into:
Second conditionals – If I had more money I would change my car
.. I don’t have more money so I can’t change my car
Third Conditionals – If Mary had studied harder she would have passed her exams ……… she didn’t study hard enough so she didn’t pass her exams.
These are unreal conditionals because they refer to situations that are untrue, impossible or hypothetical. The third conditional for example refers to a situation that is past and is impossible to change.