Learning the conditional forms
In English, there are four conditional forms. While learning conditional forms, it is always a good idea to start with the first conditional. The first conditional sentences focus on real situations.
Read the example sentences given below.
- I will help her if she asks politely.
- I will buy the car if you lower the price.
Here we are discussing real situations. If something happens, something else too will happen.
More examples are given below.
- If we finish work early, we will go to the theatre.
Once you become familiar with the basic structure of the first conditional, it is easy to learn other conditional forms as well. Note that the first conditional can also be called ‘real conditional’. The second conditional can be called ‘unreal conditional’ and the third conditional can be called ‘past unreal conditional’.
There is not much difference between the first conditional and zero conditional forms, but structures are different. In a zero conditional sentence, we use simple present tenses in both clauses. In a first conditional sentence, we use simple present tense in the if-clause and will + infinitive in the result clause.
The zero conditional is used to talk about general truths. Here we are mainly talking about things that we usually do when something happens. In most cases, it is possible to express the same ideas using when.
- If you heat ice, it melts. (Zero conditional)
- When you heat ice, it melts.
- If you pour oil on water, it floats. (Zero conditional)
- When you pour oil on water, it floats.
- If I am late, my father takes me to school. (Zero conditional)
- When I am late, my father takes me to school.
- If I need help, I ask him. (Zero conditional)
- When I need help, I ask him.
- I inform my boss if I can’t solve a problem myself. (Zero conditional)
- I inform my boss when I can’t solve a problem myself.