What are Conditional Clauses?

What are Conditional Clauses?

Conditional clauses are made up of two clauses: one expresses a condition (often called the if-clause) and the other expresses the result or consequence of that condition. The consequence can be expressed before or after the condition.

What are the Types of Conditional Clauses?

There are many verb forms possible across the two clauses of conditionals, however, there are just four main types commonly used: 

1. First Conditional (if + present; will + infinitive)

First conditional clauses are used to talk about something that might or might not happen in the near or distant future. These are often used to make offers, promises, and threats:

  • If we play chess, I will win. (or I will win if we play chess.) 
  • If you need it, I will see that you have it in an hour.
  • You'll have a headache if you don't eat something.
  • It'll be richer than any claim we've worked yet, if it pans out as well as I expect.

2. Second Conditional (if + past; would + infinitive)

Second conditional clauses are used to express unlikely, imaginary, or unreal situation. When talking about unreal or improbable situations now or in the future, use the past tense (though the meaning is in the present or future) in the if-clause and would + infinitive in the other part of the sentence.

  • If I was as beautiful as Elizabeth Taylor, I wouldn't work.
  • If I didn't turn out to be a great author, my parents would be terribly displeased.
  • You would like her if you knew her.
  • If I won the lottery, I would pay off all my debts.

3. Third Conditional (if + past perfect; would have + past participle) 

Third conditional clauses are used to talk about unreal past condition (i.e. past situations that did not happen). These clauses are often used to express regrets with the past perfect tense (If + had + past participle) in the if-clause, and would have + past participle in the other part of the sentence.

  • If you had studied harder, you would have passed your exam.
  • I wouldn't have bothered you with my affairs if I had known
  • If I had started buying churches instead of working on a newspaper, I would have been rich today.

4. Zero Conditional (if + present; present) 

Zero conditional clauses are used to say that something is generally true. This type of conditionals is often used to state scientific facts, logical conclusions, principles, or general truths. 
 
  • If water is colder than 0 degree celsius, it freezes.
  • Proposals tend to be rejected if the English is poor. 
  • When I feel tired, I take a nap.
  • If you wish to advance your writing career, you have to publish your works in prestigious journals.

 

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