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?

We use 'conditionals' to express the happening of an event that relies on something else to happen. This is the best way of expressing 'hypothetical situations.'

Conditionals: Types

There are different types of conditionals and each has its own functions:

Conditionals: Structure

'Conditionals' are made of an 'if-clause' and the 'main clause' that indicates the result of the if-clause. They may refer to the probability of a past, present, or future event.

It is important to know that conditional clauses are made of two parts. One is the 'conditional' part which is called the 'if-clause' and one is the 'result' clause which is called the 'main clause.'

Zero Conditional

We use 'zero conditional' to express a permanent truth such as scientific facts and general habits, our typical behaviors, explanations, guidelines, advice, orders, instructions, etc.

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 Conditional Structure

The if clause in 'zero conditional' structure has a simple present verb, and the main clause contains a simple present verb as well.
Remember, in the main clause you can also have modal verbs such as can, might, could, may.

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 used to introduce a dependent clause. The word 'if' is considered a clause marker in the conditional mood. But it is not the only marker. 'When' is also used as a clause marker.

Ice melts when you heat it.

First Conditional

We use 'first conditional' mood to express possible conditions with their probable results.

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. For the main clause the verb can be modals such as will, can, may, must, etc.
In addition sometimes you can even use *imperatives in the main clause.

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

He will kill you if he finds out the truth.

First Conditional Clause Marker

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

I will be available in case you need a ride.

As soon as your mother arrives, we will go to the airport to welcome her.


One or both of the clauses can contain a negative verb in conditional mood.

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

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

Second Conditional

We use the 'second conditional' to express situations that are not real or they seem to be unlikely to happen. Remember, you can use the second conditional to talk about your dreams. In this case, the situation is not actual, but the condition is currently being imagined.

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

If you studied well, you would pass the exam.

Second Conditional Structure

The verb of the 'if-clause' in the second conditional mood can be simple past, past continuous, or past modal. The main clause can be made of 'past modal verbs + infinitive without to.' In some cases, there are some special structures that are possible to be used in the main clause, such as 'past modal + be + verb + ing', or 'would be able to,' 'would have to.'

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.


In the 'second conditional' mood, use the term 'were' instead of the term 'was' even for pronouns such as I, she, he, it.

Third Conditional

We use the 'third conditional' mood to express an imaginary condition and its results that are unreal, and impossible to happen because they cannot be changed anymore.

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

If They had been studying all night, they couldn't have failed the tests.

Third Conditional Structure

The if-clause in the 'third conditional mood' can have a past perfect, past perfect continuous verb, or in some cases, you can use 'could have + past participle]. The main clause can be made of these structures 'would, might, or could + have + past participle.'

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

We use mixed conditionals to express unreal conditions. The if-clause and the main clause do not happen in the same tense.

If I had worked out harder in the past, I would lose more weight than now.

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

Mixed Conditional Structure

There are two ways to make mixed conditionals. One is to use a past condition with the present result; another is to use a present condition with the past result. Here is the structure:

  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 broke her leg.

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


You can start a conditional with an 'if-clause,' or the 'main clause.' The only important thing to know is that if you start the conditional with the 'main clause' you write the clauses with no 'comma' in between, but using an 'if-clause' at the beginning requires a 'comma' between the two clauses, i.e. after the 'if-clause.'

If you are tired, you should take a rest.

You would finish the project if you started sooner.


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

'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

We use the conditional Type 1 when we want to talk about situations we believe are real or possible in the future. 'If I study hard, I'll pass the exam.'

Conditional II

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

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