Conditional Forms in English: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:04 Conditionals and Time
  • 0:30 If
  • 0:49 Different Uses of…
  • 3:10 Were/Was?
  • 3:41 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Charles Kinney, Jr.
Conditional forms are a way of showing actions that happen, will happen or might have happened. There are different ways to show conditionals depending on what you are trying to say. In this lesson, you will look at the four forms of conditionals.

Conditionals and Time

Imagine you had a machine that could go back and forth in time. It would be awesome! If you forgot to do homework, you could go back in time and still meet friends for dinner. If you wanted to see what would happen if you took a new job, you could go forward in time and see your future.

In a way, conditionals are like a time machine. You can tell things that happen, will happen, might have happened, or would have happened if you do, will do or did something.


When you see the word if, this is usually a conditional sentence. There are four types of conditionals but many ways to say and write conditionals. Conditional clauses can also be made in different word order but still mean the same thing:

  • If he eats pizza, he is happy.
  • He is happy if he eats pizza.

Different Uses of Conditionals

First off, we have the zero conditional, which presents in the form: if + present verb, present verb. It's used in the present. Zero conditional shows a result that happens if a repeated condition happens. Let's look at some examples:

  • If she exercises every day, she stays healthy.
  • She stays healthy if she exercises every day.
  • If they laugh at my jokes, I know I am funny.
  • I know I am funny if they laugh at my jokes.

There's also the first conditional (real conditional), which takes the form: if + present verb, will + base form of verb (no 'to' or different ending for he or she). It's a combination of the present and the future. This conditional shows a possible result that will probably happen if another condition happens. Here are some examples. Again, word order doesn't matter.

  • If she studies for the test, she will get a good grade.
  • She will get a good grade if she studies for the test.
  • If we take the train, we will be on time.
  • We will be on time if we take the train.

Next we'll look at the second conditional (unreal conditional), which takes the form: if + past verb, would + base form of verb (no 'to' or different ending for he or she). It, too, is used for a combination of present and future. This conditional shows an unlikely or impossible action that probably wouldn't happen unless another action happened.

Here is an example of an unlikely action:

  • If we won the lottery, we would move to Spain.
  • We would move to Spain if we won the lottery.

And here is an example of an impossible action:

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