Conditional sentences describe hypothetical situations and their outcomes. They include a conditional clause (otherwise known as an “if” clause) and the result of that statement. In this post, we’ll discuss the different types of conditional sentences along with grammatical rules to keep in mind and their exceptions.
Types of Conditional Sentences
There are four types of conditional sentences:
Zero conditionals are hypotheticals likely to occur. They’re formed in the simple present tense:
Sarah gets empanadas when she goes to the farmer’s market.
First conditionals describe situations likely to occur but not certain to occur. The “if” clause is written in the simple present tense, and the main clause, or the part of the sentence that can stand alone, follows the “will + verb” structure:
If Joe eats another piece of my cake, I will kick him out of the house.
Second conditionals are possible but highly unlikely. In these conditionals, the simple past is used in the “if” clause, and the main clause follows the structure “would + infinitive verb.”
Alice would invite you to dinner if you offered to bring guacamole.
Third conditionals are impossible scenarios. They state that if something happened, something else would have resulted from it. The “if” clause in these conditionals is in the past perfect tense, and the main clause uses the form “would have + verb.”
If he had asked me to the dance, I would have said yes.
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Exceptions When Forming Conditional Sentences
When forming conditional sentences, there are several exceptions to be aware of.
Exception #1: The simple future tense should generally only be used in the main clause. There’s one exception to this rule, however: the simple future tense may be used in the if-clause if the action of this clause takes place after the action in the independent clause:
I’ll wear a funny hat if it will make you feel better.
Exception #2: The phrase “were to” can be used to describe a future situation in the conditional form that’s unlikely or unthinkable. “Were to” can be used to discuss hypothetical situations in:
The present: If they were to show up empty-handed, I wouldn’t talk to them.
The past: If you were to have eaten the seafood, you would have gotten sick.
The future: If Alicia were to cancel the trip, she would never forgive herself.
Proofreading and Editing
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