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Conditional Sentences: "Real" Situations.

Updated: Jan 18, 2023

In this post I'll look at the Zero and First Conditional. These are both used to show the outcome to conditions that are either always met, or very likely to be met.

Zero Conditional: is used to talk about facts or things which always happen under certain conditions.


If/when + Simple Present, + Simple Present.

for example - facts about the world that are 'always' true:

When you heat ice, it melts.

When you spill red wine on a carpet, it stains the carpet.

When you spend too long in the sun, your skin burns.

Or situations that are true because they are planned or parts of routines...

When we go on holiday, we always stay in a villa in the south of Italy.

If we want something to eat, we go to a local restaurant.

When we fly home, we fly from the closest airport.

Practice exercises: finish the following sentences…

1) What happens if you fall in a river?

Example answer: when you fall in the river, you get wet

2) What happens when you cook pasta for too long?

3) What happens when somebody commits a crime?

4) In your workplace, what happens when the fire alarm goes off?

5) When you start work each day, what is the first thing you do?

First Conditional: Often called the "real" conditional because it is used for real or possible situations. These situations take place if a certain condition is met. It is possible and also very likely that the condition will be fulfilled.


If + Simple Present, + Simple Future.

If I have time, I will go to the supermarket later.

Take the following scenario; Train travel is relatively predictable, but obviously there are some things that can change at short notice. We could use the first conditional to think the possible outcomes of certain conditions being fulfilled.

If we arrive at the station early, we will be able to catch the earlier train”.

If the train is delayed, we will be late to the meeting”.

If the train is very busy, we will need to stand up”.

Notice that with all the conditions they relate to things that are pretty normal, and could happen.

Here is another example; We are just about to give a sales pitch to a potential client, we are confident that we will be successful here, so we can start to think about the outcomes of the meeting.

If the client likes the pitch, we will be offered the contract”.

If we secure the contract, we will generate more revenue for the company”.

If we earn the company more money we will receive a larger yearly bonus”.

Practice exercises: answer the following questions:

1) What will you do if the weather is good this weekend?

Example Answer: if the weather is good this weekend, I will take my daughter to the park.

2) …and if the weather is bad?

3) If you are able to go on holiday this year, where will you go?

4) What will happen if you decided to stop paying your rent?

5) What happens when you study English every day?

6) What happens if you don’t spend any time learning English?

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