Mini grammar lesson: How to use conditionals (if sentences)
There are three kinds of present conditional sentences here: real and unreal. Real Conditionals describe real-life situations. The two unreal Conditionals describe unreal, imaginary situations but there is a difference in the possibility of them happening, however they don’t refer to the past.
(The 3rd conditional lesson is coming soon )
Although they might look difficult, they are very useful structures in English and are often included in daily conversation. This comes in very handy in the IELTS speaking section when talking about your daily life (zero conditional) or talking about possibilities (1st and 2nd conditional)
1. Zero Conditional
Used to talk about what you normally do in real-life situations. Using If / When, The structure is: If / When+ Present verb + Present verb
If I go to a friend’s house for dinner, I usually take a bottle of wine or some cakes.
When I have a day off from work, I often go to the beach.
If I go to bed late, I wake up feeling tired.
I read books if there is nothing on TV.
Both “if” and “when” are used in the Present Real Conditional. Using “if” suggests that something happens less frequently. Using “when” suggests that something happens regularly.
When I have a day off from work, I usually go to the beach.
(I regularly have days off from work.)
If I have a day off from work, I usually go to the beach.
(I rarely have days off from work)
2. 1st Conditional and 2nd Conditional
The 1st Conditional is used to talk about imaginary situations but the possibility is stronger. The structure is: If + Present verb + Will
The 2nd Conditional is used to talk about imaginary situations but the possibility is weaker. The structure is: If + Past verb + Would
1. If I win the lottery, I will buy a new car (I do the lottery everyday and one day I expect to win)
2. If I won the lottery, I would buy a new car (I don’t often do the lottery and Im just dreaming)
In the first sentence above we use the 1st conditional to express the stronger possibility and the second sentence expresses the weaker possibility.. More examples below.
- If I owned a car, I would drive to work. (I don’t own a car)
- He would buy a car if he had more money. (He doesn’t have much money)
- I would go to Hawaii if I had a vacation. (I don’t have any vacation this year) .
- A: What would you do if you won the lottery?
B: I would buy a house.
- A: Where would you live if you moved to the Europe?
B: I would live in Madrid.
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