It is exceedingly important to continuously introduce yourself to new conditionals or rules and vocabulary when learning a new language or when trying to improve your skills in an existing one. You might not realize it, but you can easily become bored or frustrated with yourself if you start feeling like you are not making any progress.
So here we want to introduce conditionals to you, and perhaps expand your knowledge on them if you are already familiar. This grammatical rule is a multi-layered one that will keep you engaged for a long time, as it also incorporates many other language rules that will encourage you to get creative with your knowledge on how to apply the rules of English.
Conditionals are known as ‘if’ clauses. They are present in every language. In English, they express the result of something that has happened. Also something that might happen, or did not happen. It relies on conjugations of verb tenses, and so will expand your speaking abilities.
There are four conditional rules, as well as their uses and meaning. Keep in mind that these rules are attempting to talk about situations and events that may or may not happen:
The Zero Conditional refers to what is now/always real/possible. Use them to make truthful statements, so ‘if this happens, then that happens’. For example: “If you press the flick the light switch, the light will turn on”.
The First Conditional is used to talk about future events. It describes possibilities. So ‘if this happens, then this might happen/this won’t happen’. For example: “If the sun shines, then I will take my dog for a walk”.
The Second Conditional has two uses. We can use it to talk about future events that will probably not happen, and we can use it to refer to something in the present that is impossible. In the first use, we might say something like: “She would go to college if she ever made an effort”. In the second use we might say something like: “If I had gone to MIT, I would be an astronaut”. The second conditional is used for unlikely or impossible events.
The Third Conditional speaks about the past, particularly a situation that did not happen. So ‘if this had happened, this would have happened’. For example: “If I had eaten more, I wouldn’t have been hungry”.
All of these deserve their own section, since there is also a mixed conditional clause, and they come with a specific set of rules. Now that you are more aware of them though, feel free to click on the above links and learn more about these essential clauses and how to apply them. You will see that learning a rule will allow you to keep introducing yourself to new kinds of vocabulary and even more rules, which will give you a tangible way of proving to yourself that you are making progress and improving your language abilities.
By Thomas Marais
Thomas Marais is a native English speaker from South Africa. He graduated cum laude and uses his honors bachelor’s degree in the Humanities to provide professional English tutoring to children and adults. He is a TEFL certified teacher and teaches teach both children and adults at any language level.