Learn English Grammar: The 4 Conditionals


Hello, I'm Gill at www.engvid.com and today's lesson is on the four conditional tenses, okay?

So, you may already be familiar with this, the zero conditional, first conditional, second

conditional, third conditional okay?

And they all have a slightly different way of being constructed, the way you put them

together with different tenses, okay.

So, let's just run through them and, hopefully, as you can see all four on the board together,

you can see he differences between them.

Okay, so let's look at the zero conditional, which is the simplest one, really, and this

is for statements which are true in general, they're generally true.

So, for example: The TV comes on if you press the button.

Press the button, either on the TV or on the remote and the TV comes on.

So - and also, the word "if" is used in all of these, all of these conditionals, "if"

is the sort of pivotal word.

If you do something, then something else will happen.

That sort of thing.

So, the TV comes on if you press the button, and you can put "if" either in the middle

of the sentence or at the beginning of the sentence.

So, you could also say "If you press the button, the TV comes on."

It doesn't usually matter which order you put them in.

So, here's another example: If you heat water to 100° C, it boils.

The water boils, if you heat water, okay?

So, these sentences are made up of two clauses, there's the "if" clause and there's the main clause.

The main clause there is "the TV comes on" and then the "if" clause, which is also called

a subordinate clause, comes there, "if you press the button".

This one, we start with the "if" clause, "If you heat water to 100° C" and then the main

clause, "it boils", the water boils, that's the main clause.

So, the sentences are made up of two clauses joined together with "if" somehow, whether

it's at the beginning or in the middle, and for both clauses, you use the present simple tense.

It boils, you heat, you press, the TV comes on.

That's all present simple tense for zero conditional, okay?

So, that's very simple.

Things that are true in general.


So, let's move onto the first conditional and these are things which are sort of real,

real things in real life, things which are possible, things that you feel are possible,

so: If I see her, I will tell her.

If you see your friend, you have something to tell her.

So, if I see her, I will tell her.

So again, we have "if" and "I see" is present simple and then "I will", because this is

possible, it's not happening now, it could happen in the future, if I see her maybe later

today or tomorrow, I will tell her.

So then "will", you're using the future there.

So, will + the verb, I will tell her.

That's the future.


So, it's present simple for the "if" clause and future for the main clause.

I will tell her if I see her, you can say it that way around, okay?

And then another one: I will go shopping on the way home if I have time.

Okay, so maybe you're going out to work and then you're coming home from work and if you

have - if I have time on the way home from work, I will go shopping.

Okay, so, I will - future, main clause.

If I have time - I have, present simple, okay.

So, that is a kind of intention.

You're saying "Yes, I will do that if I have time".

So, it's a real situation, it's something that's quite possible.

The first conditional, okay.

And then we're getting further and further away now with the second conditional to what's

possible, because this second conditional is if it's impossible or unlikely, so if something

is likely to happen, it will probably happen.

And if something is unlikely, that's the negative prefix, that's unlikely, so that's not probably

going to happen.

So, it's either impossible or probably not going to happen, unlikely.

So, second conditional.

So, let's have a look at the examples here.

So, we still have "if": If I won a lot of money I would buy a big house.

And again, you can turn it round: I would buy a big house if I won a lot of money.

It doesn't matter which way round you put it, it means the same.

And here: If I had his number, I would call him.

But it means I don't have his number, so I can't call him.

So, if I had his number, I would call him, but I have no idea what his number is or how

to get his number, okay.

So, the tenses here are the past simple: if I won, that's the past tense of "to win",

to win.

So, if I won a lot of money, that's the past simple, I would buy, so it's would + the verb,

would buy a big house, okay?

So, the "if" clause has the past simple, the main clause has would + the verb, the base

verb, "to buy", okay?

And then: If I had his number, past simple, "I had", the verb "to have", past tense, "had",

so "If I had his number, I would call him."

So, would + the base verb "to call", I would call him if I had his number.

It's a bit strange to use the past tense because these are things that could never happen,

possibly, they might never happen, so it might seem strange to use the past tense for that,

but that's just the way that the grammar works.



So, we've got further and further away from reality and possibility, and then finally,

with the third conditional, the last one, this is where it's too late to do anything.

Something happened in the past.

You could have done something, but you have missed the opportunity and you can't do it now.

It's too late.

Too late now.


So, let's have a look at the examples: I would have lost weight - if you're on a diet, you're

trying to lose some weight - I would have lost weight if I hadn't eaten so much.

It's fairly obvious if you keep eating and you're on a diet, you're never going to lose

any weight.

So, it's an obvious statement but it's the third conditional.

It's too late now to lose - of course, in the future, you can try again, you can keep

trying, but at this point in time, you have not lost weight on your diet because you have

just been eating a lot.

So, I would have lost weight if I had not eaten so much.

And then this example: If - again - If I had gone to bed earlier, I would have woken up

in time to catch the train.

Okay, so we've got some quite complex tenses going on there.

So, let's have a look.

So, we've got the past perfect, so with the "if" clause, no, not with the "if" clause,

yes, the past perfect, yes, "if I had not eaten" is the past perfect, sorry, I get confused


"If I had not eaten", so had + eaten is the past perfect.

If you say, "I have eaten", that's the present perfect, okay, but this is the past perfect.

I had not eaten.

So, that's the past perfect with the "if" clause, okay.

And then the other part, the main clause has would have + the past participle, so "I would

have lost", would have and then lost is the past participle of the verb "to lose", okay.


And then the second example: If I had gone - past perfect, if you say, "I have gone"

with the V in "have", "I have gone", that's the present perfect.

If you have the past perfect, it's "had gone", had gone, past perfect.

"If I had gone to bed earlier, I would have woken up", so "to wake", the verb "to wake",

when you wake up in the morning, if the alarm clock goes or if you just wake up naturally,

"I would have woken up in time to catch the train".

So, that's the most complex construction, the third conditional.

But this is - it's quite a complex idea as well, that you missed an opportunity.

If you - if I had gone to bed earlier, I would have had more sleep and it would have been

easier to wake up and then I could get up and get out and catch the train.


So, I hope that helps to show how these four conditionals work and then in the second part

of the lesson, I have a little test for you for you to fill in some gaps.

Okay, so let's have a look at some sentences with some gaps in them and let's see which

conditionals fit in those gaps.

So, we have four sentences, there are four conditional tenses, so one of those goes in each.

So, let's have a look at the sentences first and then we'll go back over it.

So, here's the first one: If you didn't smoke - cigarettes - if you didn't smoke, you ________

feel a lot better.


And then the next one: If it's sunny tomorrow we _____ go to the beach.


Next one: If she had gone to university, she _____ _____ found a really good job.


And then finally: If it snows, travelling _____ more difficult.

And a form of the verb "to be" goes in that gap, okay.

So, let's have a look, then.

So, you can probably see immediately they're not in this order.

I have deliberately put them in a different order so that you don't know which one is

which, okay.

So, let's have a look.

If you didn't smoke, you _____ feel a lot better.

So, this is someone who does smoke, and you're giving them advice.

What would it be like if they didn't smoke, okay?

If you didn't smoke, you - so what's the missing word here, and which conditional is it?

Okay, so it's "would".

You would feel a lot better.

So, that's quite a move away from the reality of the situation.

It's a theoretical idea.

It - for someone who does smoke now, if they stop smoking, that's possible, but what are

the chances of someone stopping smoking?


So, if you didn't smoke you would feel a lot better.

So, which conditional do you think that is?

So, it's the second, that's the second conditional, using did, past tense, past simple, and then

would + a verb, would feel, okay?


Next one: If it's sunny tomorrow, we _____ go to the beach.

So tomorrow is in the future, so there's a clue.

If it's sunny tomorrow, we - what's the future tense, what's the verb you always use with

the future, the auxiliary verb?

We will, okay?

So, the future tense, "we will go the beach if it is" - so present simple there, but it's

about the future - "If it is sunny tomorrow, we will go to the beach".

So, do you remember which?

It's not two, obviously - which of the remaining ones would you say that is?

Is it zero, or one, or three?

Okay, so it's one.

It's the first conditional, okay?


Moving on.

If she had gone to university, she _____ _____ found a really good job.

So, that's quite a complex construction.

If she had gone, so "had gone" is past perfect, okay?

She _____ _____ - so this means she didn't go to university.

So, she probably hasn't found a good job.

So, does that mean it's too late now?

Is it the one where it's too late?

So, if she had gone to university, she - do you remember what to put here?

She would have, would have, she would have found a really good job if she had gone to


So, in a way, it's never too late to go to university within reason, but it's too late

for her at the moment.

So, okay, so that's the most complicated one, the third, the third conditional.

So, finally then, the last one, and this is the simplest one: If it snows - snows, present

simple - travelling ____ more difficult.

And this is the verb "to be" here, travelling, you're saying travelling ____ more difficult

in the present simple of the verb "to be", travelling is, so travelling is more difficult

if it snows, which is a general, usually true statement.

That is usually the case.

It's generally true.

So, we only have one conditional left, the zero, so that's the zero conditional at the

end there.

Okay, so I hope that's been a useful overview of the four conditional tenses and clarified

how to construct them.

So, if you'd like to go the website www.engvid.com, there's a quiz there where you can test

out your knowledge further, and thank you very much for watching and see you again soon.

Bye for now.