Los Condicionales

Number 9 of 85 in B1 - PRE-INTERMEDIATE

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Conditionals: Zero, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and Mixed….

Today we´re going to talk about Conditionals, all of them- 0, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and mixed. The most difficult is in fact the first. The third and mixed sound complicated, but they are quite easy, so let´s start!


Zero Conditional

When + present, ….present…. This is almost not a conditional. You use it for Universal Truths or General Situations:

  • When the temperature of water is 0ºC, it freezes
  • When you mix blue and yellow paint, you get green.

Note 1: In all conditionals, as in Spanish, you can turn the sentence around.

  • Water freezes when its temperature is 0ºC.
  • You get green paint if you mix blue or yellow.

Note 2: Both sentences can be 1st conditional with very little difference. With zero conditional you are talking about always, but with 1st you are talking about a specific situation (eg. You are teaching in a science or art class.)

  • The water will freeze when its temperature is 0.
  • You will get green if you mix blue and yellow.

First Conditional

A Possible Future Situation: When / If +present, …will / won´t + infinitive… 

  • If  I see Jane, I will tell her     (or When I see…..)
  • He won´t cry if you don´t tease him.

(Remember to double-click any word you don’t understand)

Note 1: Muchas veces- especialmente al hablar- es difícil detectar la 1ª condicional porque en Español no lo usaís de la misma manera. Por ejemplo,es bastante probable que digas-

  • Cuando llegue a casa, te llamo. (Te llamo cuando llegue a casa)

En Inglés tiene que ser: Cuando llegue a casa, te llamaré. (When I get home, I will call you.)

Note 2: There are a lot of variations:

En vez de If / When se puede poner  ‘Unless’= Al menos que..

Will / won´t se puede cambiar por ‘can(´t)’, ‘should(n´t)’ or ‘might (not..)’= quizás (no…)

  • I can´t carry on with this website unless people click on the adverts! =

No puedo seguir con este sitio web al menos que la gente pinche los anuncios!!!  (Es una indirecta)

Note 3: Remember the ‘-s’ of the third person singular. Very easy to forget.

  • If the polar bear doesn´t find shelter, it will die = The polar bear won´t survive unless it finds shelter.

Second Conditional

A Hypothetical Situation: If + past… , ..would(n’t) + infinitive… 

  • If I won the lottery, I would travel the world.    (Si ganase la lotería, viajaría el mundo)
  • What would you do, if you saw a ghost? (Que harías si vieses una fantasma)

Note 1: In Spanish the present subjunctive (Cuando haga, vayan, etc.) is the present (does, go…) and is used with the 1st Cond, but the 2nd Conditional uses the past subjunctive-

Don´t confuse this subjunctive (=had) with the conditional (=would have)

  • I wouldn´t have (no tendría) any money if I didn´t have (no tuviera) a job.
  • If my dad was (fuera/fuese) president, I would be (sería) Minister of Sport!

The ‘if’ goes with the subjunctive.

Note 2:

If you want to say ‘Si yo fuera’ the past of ‘to be’ is ‘If I was…..’ and this is very common in English. 100% correct however is ‘If I were….’. There are 2 songs to show this:

Some teachers and some examiners don´t like ‘If I was….’. Check!

Third Conditional

Past Hypothetical Situation: If…..had + pp…… , ……would have + pp……..   (pp= past participle= 3rd column) 

  • If you had called me, I would have taken you. (Si me hubieras llamado, te habría llevado.)
  • John wouldn´t have seen anything if Sarah hadn´t shouted. (John no habría visto nada si Sarah no hubiera gritado)

Note 1: Do not confuse ‘had’ = ‘hubiera’ with ‘would have’ = ‘habría’. In Spanish you tend to (= sueles) say ‘hubiera’ both times:

  • Si me hubieras avisado, no le hubiera invitado.

You must realise that you must say:

  • Si me hubieras avisado, no le habría invitado. = If you had warned me, I wouldn´t have invited him.

Note 2: There are a lot of possibilities to put different modals in the past in the same way. This is for a different blog, but remember that ´have´ in this situation is normally pronounced ‘/uvf/’. For more information on this, click here.

  • …should have….               =             /k’-duvf/
  • …could have…..                 =             /sh’-duvf/
  • …might have….                 =             /mai-tuvf/

Mixed Conditional

Hypothetical Present Situation of a Hypothetical Past Event: If ……….. had + pp… , …..would + infintive…… 

  • If you had studied harder, you would have a good job now. (Si hubieras estudiado más (duro), tendrías un buen trabajo ahora)
  • I wouldn´t be here if the boss hadn´t made me come (No estaría aquí si el jefe no me hubiera hecho (mandado) venir.

Note 1: The second, third and mixed conditionals are very similar to Spanish and should not give you any problems. Practice makes perfect!

Do the homework to see if you understand. Just put a name and email and then check your post- You will also receive a free ebook and the possibility of a free Skype class with me. You will only get one email each month. Click here for more information. 

If you need more help, have a look at my videotutorial on Conditionals – with Listening Exercises!

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