Unreal Conditional Sentences: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 Review of the Conditional
  • 1:08 Real Conditional
  • 2:15 Unreal Conditional
  • 3:57 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kimberly Myers

Kimberly has taught college writing and rhetoric and has a master's degree in Comparative Literature.

This lesson defines unreal conditional sentences as a subtype of conditional sentences and provides examples and identification practice. Unreal conditional sentences are conditional sentences where the 'if' clauses refer to a situation that is imaginary, not real, or unlikely to occur.

Review of the Conditional

Before we get into unreal conditional sentences, let's take a moment to review what conditional sentences are in general. Conditional sentences are sentences that contain a hypothetical condition and the consequence, or result, of that condition. To put that another way, if x is true, then y happens. For instance, if water reaches 32 degrees Fahrenheit, it freezes. This conditional sentence provides a hypothetical condition that, if met, always produces a certain result. We know that if water cools to this temperature, it freezes.

Conditional sentences can talk about hypothetical situations and their consequences in the present, the past, or the future.


Remember that the 'if' clause does not have to be at the beginning of the conditional sentence. For instance, this also works: Water freezes if it reaches 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Real Conditional

Now it gets a little more complicated because there are multiple types of conditional sentences, but stick with me here! Remember that the basic components of a condition (the 'if' clause) and its consequence stay the same.

Conditional sentences are divided into real conditional and unreal conditional sentences. This lesson is going to focus on unreal conditional sentences, but before we do that, we need to know what a real conditional sentence is.

The 'if' clause in a real conditional sentence is a condition that is possible and likely to produce a certain result. For instance: If I save enough money, I will buy a new pair of shoes.

In this example, the speaker is not sure whether he or she will be able to save enough money to buy a new pair of shoes, but it is possible. There's nothing that makes this condition especially unlikely to happen. This is a real conditional sentence.

Let's see some more examples:

  • I will become a doctor if I get into medical school.
  • If it rains tomorrow, I will stay inside.
  • The team will go to the championship if they win the game.

Got it? Okay, let's look at unreal conditional sentences.

Unreal Conditional

An unreal conditional sentence has an 'if' clause that is a condition that is not real, is imaginary, or is unlikely to occur. For instance: If I win the lottery, I will build a mansion.

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