Conditional Mood

Have you ever thought about something that might have happened if there was a different situation in the past? Conditionals help us talk about possibilities.

"Conditional Mood" in the English Grammar

What Is Conditional Mood?

Conditional mood is used to express a hypothetical or uncertain situation that is often dependent on a certain condition or circumstance. It is used to express a situation that is not necessarily real or has not yet happened, but may happen in the future.

Conditionals: Structure

Conditional sentences usually consist of two parts: the 'if-clause', which expresses the condition, and the 'result' clause, which expresses the hypothetical consequence that would follow if the condition were met. For example:

If I have time, I will go to the party.

Here, the 'if-clause' introduces the condition, and the main clause introduces the hypothetical consequence.

Conditionals: Types

There are different types of conditionals and each serves a specific function:

Zero Conditional

We use 'zero conditional' to express a general truth such as scientific facts, typical behaviors, explanations, guidelines, advice, orders, instructions, etc. Pay attention to the following examples:

If you heat water to 100 °C, it boils.

'Zero conditionals' are used for things that are always true.

When it rains, the earth gets wet.

Zero Conditionals: Structure

The zero conditional structure consists of an 'if-clause' with a simple present verb, and a main clause with a simple present verb.
Modal verbs such as can, might, could, may can also be used in the main clause of a zero conditional sentence..

If you drink too much alcohol, you get drunk.

If he eats too much, he gains weight soon.

Zero Conditional Clause Marker

A clause marker is a term that introduces a dependent clause. In the conditional mood, the word 'if' is commonly used as a clause marker to introduce the condition. The word 'When' can also be used as a clause marker in the conditional mood to introduce a dependent clause expressing a hypothetical situation that is expected to occur in the future.

Ice melts when you heat it.

First Conditional

The first conditional mood is used to express a possible condition and its probable result. This structure is often used to talk about future events that may or may not happen depending on whether a certain condition is met. Take a look at the examples:

If you are there, I will be there within 10 minutes.

Give him the keys if he is in your house.

conditional I

First Conditional: Structure

The 'if-clause' in the first conditional mood can be in simple present, present continuous, present perfect, and present perfect continuous tense. The verb in the main clause can be in future tense or a modal such as will, can, may, must, etc.
Additionally, in some cases, imperatives can be used in the main clause of a first conditional sentence to express a command or instruction.

If you are happy with him, I will accept your marriage.

If you see him, tell him to call me

Here, an imperative is used in the main clause.

First Conditional Clause Marker

Some of the most common clause markers in the 'first conditional' mood include: unless, as long as, provided that, and in case. Check out the examples for more clarification:

I will be available in case you need a ride.

Unless you hurry, you will miss the train.

Tip!

In the conditional mood, one or both of the clauses can contain a negative verb. For example:

If I don't apologize, I'd feel guilty.

He won't go to sleep unless you tell him a story.

Second Conditional

The second conditional is used to express hypothetical situations that are not real or are unlikely to happen. This structure is often used to talk about dreams or situations that are imagined but not currently happening.

If I were you, I would talk to him in person.

If I won the lottery, I would travel the world

Second Conditional: Structure

In the second conditional mood, the verb in the 'if-clause' can be in the simple past, past continuous, or past modal form. The main clause can be constructed using past modal verbs together with a bare infinitive. There are also some special structures that can be used in the main clause of a second conditional sentence, including past modal + be + verb + ing, would be able to, and would have to.
Take a look at the examples:

If I were your mom, you would have to be home at 9 pm.

If you got the scholarship, you would be able to have a life in Montreal.

Tip!

When using the second conditional mood, use the verb 'were' instead of 'was', even when referring to singular pronouns such as 'I', 'she', 'he', or 'it'.

Third Conditional

The third conditional mood is used to express hypothetical situations and their results that are unreal and impossible to happen because they pertain to events in the past that cannot be changed. For example:

If she had taken her pills on time, she might have been alive now.

If they had been studying all night, they wouldn't have failed the test.

Third Conditional: Structure

In the third conditional mood, the 'if-clause' can contain a past perfect, or a past perfect continuous verb. In some cases, 'could have + past participle' can also be used in the 'if-clause'. The main clause can be constructed using 'would have', 'might have, or 'could have' followed by a past participle. Pay attention to the examples:

If Sara had driven carefully, she might not have had an accident.

Hanna could have been here if she had not missed the flight.

Mixed Conditional

Mixed conditionals are a type of grammatical structure used to express hypothetical situations that are unreal or unlikely to happen. In a mixed conditional sentence, the 'if-clause' and the main clause are not in the same tenses.

If I had worked out harder in the past, I would be in better shape now.

You wouldn't be alone if you hadn't lost him for a ridiculous reason.

Mixed Conditional: Structure

Mixed conditionals can be constructed in two ways. The first way is to use a past condition with a present result, while the second way is to use a present condition with a past result. The structures are as follows:

  1. [if + past perfect/past perfect continuous + would/could/might + infinitive without to]
  2. [if + past continuous/past simple + would/could/might + have + past participle]

If you had looked after her, she wouldn't break her leg.

She would have had a child if she had not rejected his proposal.

Punctuation

There are two ways to construct a conditional sentence: by starting with the 'if-clause' or starting with the main clause. The use of punctuation differs depending on which clause comes first.
If the conditional sentence starts with the main clause, no comma is needed between the two clauses. On the other hand, if the conditional sentence starts with the 'if-clause', a comma is needed between the two clauses. Pay attention to the examples:

If you are tired, you should take a break.

I would have gone to the party if I had finished my work

Review

To sum up all you have learned, take a look at the table below.

If-clause Main clause
Zero present present
First present/present continuous future (will)/imperative/modals + infinitive
Second past tense past modals + infinitives
Third past perfect would have + past participle/past modals + past participle
Mixed past perfect/past modals + infinitives past modals + infinitives/past perfect

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Zero Conditional

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'If you don't eat or drink, you die'. 'If you heat water, it boils'. Zero conditional is used to talk about facts or situations which are always true.

Conditional I

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Conditional II

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Type 2 conditional sentences talk about situations that are hypothetical. There is a possibility that the condition will be fulfilled.
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