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Conditional verbs

Many times, we encounter situations where we think – what if? What if I had more money with me? What if my friends don’t turn up for the party today? What if you have to talk in front of a hundred people today? These hypothetical situations are best dealt using conditionals. In this grammar article, let’s learn how to use conditionals and a few supporting examples.

2:17 min read
  Ramya Shankar  —  Grammar Tips
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1.   Zero conditional

     When your action gives a 100% result.

If you want a receipt, press this button.

If you heat ice, it melts.

If you want to leave a message, speak after the beep.


Notice that for actions which have definite results, we use simple present tense as in the above examples.


2.  First conditional

     To talk about possible future situations.

If you work harder, you will succeed.

If it stops raining, we will go out.

If you want to lose weight, you shall eat less.


Notice the use of future tense, with will and shall. In place of shall, one can use ‘should’ too.


3.  Second conditional

     To talk about a situation that is unlikely to happen, and to give advice to someone.

If I were you, I would plant some trees and maintain your garden well.

If I saw a dinosaur, I would run as fast as possible.

If I had 1 crore, I would buy my dream villa.


Notice the use of would in the second clause, which denotes that the situation is not going to happen because the condition in first clause will not be fulfilled.


4.  Third conditional

     To talk about a past condition (as compared to future condition in second conditional) which could not be fulfilled because the action in the “if” clause did not happen.

If I hadn’t missed the flight, I wouldn’t have been late for the meeting.

If I had taken up English Literature in college, I would have been an English professor now.

If I hadn’t married, I would have been a film star now.


Notice that the “if” clause is always in past perfect – hadn’t missed, had taken up, hadn’t married…

The main clause verb is in perfect conditional – would have been, wouldn’t have been. We can use could have been, might have been also based on context.


Conditionals are fairly simple to understand and one only needs to get the grammar right to write correct sentences.


Here is a quick exercise –

Find out type of conditional for the below sentences: -

1.      If I spoke Italian, I would be working in Italy.

2.      If it rained, you would get wet.

3.      If it rains, the grass gets wet.

4.      If you don’t hurry now, you will miss the train.

5.      If we had looked at the map, we wouldn’t have been lost.

Let us know your answers.

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