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What are the 4 Types of Conditional Sentences? - Examples - 0th, 1st, 2nd, 3rd Conditionals

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Conditionals is a confusing topic in itself. Now it's time to say good bye to all your confusions. 

Image of blue and yellow colours. Written "General English, Conditional Sentences"

What is a Conditional Sentence?

A conditional sentence is a sentence that denotes a condition. Like, “If you want to succeed, work hard.”

In the sentence above, you can see that it expresses a condition for succeeding. 

And what is that condition? 
Yes, it’s working hard.

Now you know what a conditional sentence is, right?

So, move on to its structure.

Structures of Conditional Sentences:

All the conditional sentences have two clauses – 
i. The principal clause.
ii. A subordinate clause (the If-clause),

E.g. – 
  • If I had an extra umbrella, I would lend it to you. 
In the sentence above, the first part “If I had an extra umbrella” is the subordinate clause, while the second part “I would lend it to you” is the principal clause.

Moreover, both the clauses are joined by a conjunction called conditional conjunction. In the above instance, the conjunction is If.

What are Conditional Conjunctions?

Conditional conjunctions are the conjunctions used to join two clauses to form a conditional sentence. The most commonly used conditional conjunction is If. However, there are many of them, such as, unless, until since, lest etc. other than that.

Want to know more about conditional conjunctions?

You can have a look at our article on A List of Conditional Conjunctions and their Uses.

Types of Conditional Sentences:

How many types of conditional sentences are there?
There are mainly 4 types of conditional sentences.

Conditionals Verbs in the If-ClausesVerbs in the Principal Clauses Expression
0th (zeroth) Present Indefinite (V1) Present Indefinite (V1) Expresses general truth
1st Present Indefinite (V1) Future Indefinite (Will/shall+ M.V.1) Expresses realistic imaginations of the future.
2nd Past Indefinite (V2)

Past continuous 
(Was/were + M.V.+ing)
Would/should/could/might + M.V.1

Would/should/could/might + be + M.V.+ing
Expresses Unrealistic imaginations of the future.
3rd Past perfect (had + V3) Would/should/could/might + have + M.V.3Expresses Unrealistic imaginations of the past.

Now let us explain one by one:

What are the Zeroth Conditional Sentences?

Zero conditional sentences express general truths. It means if one thing happen, the other thing also happens as a result of the first.
Look at the following examples – 

  • If you boil water to 100°C, it gets vapoured.
  • If I don’t drink water, my body becomes dehydrated. 
  • If you cut the branches of a tree, they grow again.
  • If we don’t go to bed early, we don’t wake up early.
  • The price increases, if the demand increases.

Syntax of 0th (Zeroth) Conditional: 
Both the verbs of if clause and principal clause are in present indefinite tense.  

What are the 1st Conditional Sentences?

The 1st Conditional Sentences express possible / realistic imaginations in the future.

E.g. – 
  • If she comes, John will tell her everything.


If clause with a verb in simple present tense. And the main clause with a verb in the simple future. As follows 

If + subject + verb (present tense) + object + , + subject 2 + will/shall + verb + object.

More examples –
  • If it rains, I’ll use an umbrella.
  • I shall not buy you chocolates if you don’t listen to me.

What are the 2nd Conditional Sentences?

The 2nd Conditional Sentences express impossible unrealistic imagination in the future.

E.g. – 
  • If I had a pen I would give it to you

Syntax – 
If clause   main verb is in the simple past.
Main clause  main verb is in the would + verb 1 form.

If + subject + Verb 2 + object + , + subject + would + verb 1 + object. 

Remember, this conditional sentence expresses unrealistic imagination of the future, though the past form of the verb (verb 2) is used in the if-clause.

Other examples – 
  • If I won a lottery, I would buy a new car.
  • If John worked hard, he would pass the exam.
  • If we played the first round well, we would qualify for the final.
  • If the man got the job, he would be very happy.


Sometimes, the 2nd conditional also expresses  unrealistic imagination of the present.

 For this, the subordinate clause starts with some phrases like if only, as though, as if, I wish ('if' too) etc. is followed by (subject + V2) or (subject + were), then the verb used in the main clause, should be in the past

E.g. – 
  • Her father talks as though he knew everything.
If you analyse the sentence above, you can find that the subordinate clause is starting with 'as though' one of the phrases. 

And the verb used after the phrase, is un past (knew), unlike the 2nd Conditional rule where would + V1 is used.


Main clause + one of the phrases + subject + verb 2 + object.
One of the phrases + subject + verb 2 + object + Main clause.

(Mainly these two structures are followed. There are several variations of it.)

More examples:
  • I wish I went to a hill-station.
  • If I were a horse, I would run to my mother.
  • She acts as if she were the president.

What are the 3rd Conditional Sentences?

The 3rd conditional sentences are used to express that the present circumstances would have been different if something different had happened in the past. 

For example–
  • If you had worked hard, you would have succeeded.
The sentence states a condition that if someone had worked hard, he would have succeeded. But in reality he did not do that and so he didn’t succeed.

More such examples are as follows. –

  • If I had known the answer, I would have told you. (But I didn’t know the answer.)
  • If she had been present here, she would have helped us. (But she was not present there).
  • His father would have been upset if he had found you there. (But his father didn’t find him there.)


When the verb of the main clause is in past use subject + had + V3 after if, if only, as if, as though, I wish, we wish etc.
For example,
  • The man talked as if he had known everything. 
In the sentence above you can see that the verb used in the main clause, in in past tense (talked). For this reason, the verb of the subordinate clause is in past perfect.

Other examples: 
  • She acted as though she had drunk.
  • I wish, I had been a bird.
  • If I had been the president, I put all of them behind bars.

Inversions of the 3rd Conditional Sentences: 

Now here comes tricky part. We, as students, are often confused when they come across sentences starting with auxiliary verbs like had, were etc. 
Actually they all are 3rd conditional sentences with inversions of the structures. 

Let's look at the table below and see how they are inverted.

3rd Conditional Structures Its Inversions
If + subject + had + V3, ... Had + subject + V3, ...
If + subject + had been + object Had + subject + been + object
If + subject + were + object. Were + subject + object


If I were the President – Were I the president. 
If you were I – Were you I. 
If I had been a bird – Had I been a bird.


That's all about what are the 4 types of conditional sentences. 

Hope you've understood everything.

Now it's time to practise: click here to solve MCQs on Conditional Sentences. 

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