1st/2nd/3rd Conditional

Number 8 of 73 in B2 - UPPER-INTERMEDIATE

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Let’s start off with some examples of the different conditionals:

  • ZERO CONDITIONAL: General Truth / Verdades Generales:

If you study, you’ll pass    (Si estudias, apruebas)

  • FIRST CONDITIONAL: Possible Future Situations

If you study, you will pass   (Si estudias, aprobarás)

  • SECOND CONDITIONAL: Hypothetical Situations

If you studied, you would pass   (Si estudiaras, aprobarías)

  • THIRD CONDITIONAL: Past Hypothetical Situations

If you had studied, you would have passed   (Si hubieras estudiado, habrías aprobado)

 

Now let’s look into each one:

 

1st Cond.= If + present, will + infinitive

The First Conditional is for POSSIBLE FUTURE situations.

“If he knows, he’ll tell you.” or “he’ll tell you if he knows”  ‘ll = WILL = Si lo sabe, te dirá (o, Te dirá si lo sabe)

You can use ‘WHEN’ instead of ‘IF’, for example: WHEN he knows, he’ll tell you (=CUANDO él sepa, te lo dirá) Another option is ‘UNLESS’ = ‘Al menos que’. For example: UNLESS she invites me, I will stay at home (= Al menos que me invita, me quedaré en casa)

You can replace ‘WILL’ with other modals such as: ‘WON’T’ (negative), ‘MIGHT (not)’ (= perhaps/maybe), ‘CAN’ or ‘CAN’T’, ‘MUSTn’t’ or ‘SHOULDn’t’, or (don’t or doesn’t) HAVE TO. If you need to learn more about these modals, click here.

So all of these sentences are first conditional:

  • We can’t go to the beach if it rains.
  • If you explain what’s happening, I might know the solution.
  • I must finish this – unless my boss tells me to stop.
  • When you see Sarah, you have to tell her I phoned.

Some important notes:

  • Notice that the modal (will, won’t, can….) is the opposite side of the sentence to IF, WHEN or UNLESS. If you remember this, you won’t make this mistake:

If I  will  start working, I’ll earn some money.

  • The first conditional is the most complicated for two reasons: (1) There are a lot of options – if, when, can, must, etc…. (2) People often forget the ‘-S’ when speaking abpout ‘he’, ‘she’ or ‘it’:

When Juan comeS, we’ll eat out in the best restaurant.

  • If there is an imperative (¡Sientate! No hagas eso, Ven mañana) there is no modal:

If you see Sarah, TELL HER that I phoned.

2nd Cond= If + past, would + infinitive

The second conditional is for HYPOTHETICAL situations.

“If he knew, he’d tell you.” or “He’d tell you if he knew”  ‘d = WOULD = Si lo supiera, te lo diría (Te lo diría si lo supiera)

This conditional is easy because there aren’t many options: IF + PAST, WOULD(n’t)

  • If I were an animal I‘d be a cat, because I like sleeping.
  • I wouldn’t go if it was raining.
  • I‘d help you if I knew the answer.

3rd= If + had + participle, would have + participle 

The third conditional is for PAST HYPOTHETICAL situations.

“If he had known, He’d have told you.” or “He’d have told you if he had known.” = Si el lo hubiera sabido, lo habría dicho  / Te lo habría dicho si lo hubiera sabido

REMEMBER: ‘Had’ (Hubiera) is always with IF. ‘Would have’ (Habría) is always on the other side of the sentence.

  • If I‘d known, I wouldn’t have invited him
  • The police wouldn’t have caught the criminal if the plane hadn’t been delayed.

You can change ‘would’ for ‘might’ if you want to say ‘perhaps’:

  • England might have won the World Cup if they had had better players.

There is also a mixed conditional, but I speak more about that in the links below / También existe un ‘Condicional Mezcla’, pero hablo más de eso en los enlaces aquí:

Here there are more complete explanations and exercises to practise your conditionals:

 

EXERCISE (Answers below)

Change from 1st to 2nd and then to third conditional:

1. If I win the lottery, I will give my teacher a present! =
2. If he doesn’t invite me, I won’t talk to him anymore!=
3. I’ll see her if she comes.=
Now change from 3rd to 2nd and then 1st conditional:
4. We would have gone to the beach if it hadn’t rained.
5. If we had lost the dog, I would have cried.
6. If she had failed her exams she would have spent all summer studying

 

 

 

 

Answers!

1. If I win the lottery, I will give my teacher a present! =
  • 2nd Cond.= If I won the lottery, I’d give my teacher a present
  • 3rd Cond.=If I had won the lottery , I would have given my teacher a present.
2. If he doesn’t invite me, I won’t talk to him anymore!=
  • 2nd Cond.= If he didn’t invite me, I wouldn’t talk to him anymore
  • 3rd Cond.= If he hadn’t invited  me, I wouldn’t  have talked to him anymore
 3. I’ll see her if she comes.=
  • 2nd Cond.= I’d see her if she came
  • 3rd Cond.= I would have seen her if she had come.

4. We would have gone to the beach if it hadn’t rained.

  • 2nd Cond. = We would go to the beach if it didn’t rain (wasn’t raining)
  • 1st Cond. = We’ll go to the beach if it doesn’t rain.
 5. If we had lost the dog, I would have cried.
  • 2nd Cond. = If we lost the dog I would cry
  • 1st Cond. = If we lose the dog I’ll cry.
6. If she had failed her exams she would have spent all summer studying
  • 2nd Cond. = If she failed her exams she’d spend all summer studying
  • 1st Cond. = If she fails her exams she’ll spend all summer studying

 

 

 

 

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