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Introduction to Conditionals in English

Video Overview

Conditionals deal with situations and their possible or intended outcomes. They are complex structures in English that contain two clauses made up of a condition and the result if and when that condition is true. Zero, first, second, and third conditionals are useful to say how true or likely or possible something is. Mixed conditionals deal with mixed time-frames and likelihoods combined in one sentence. Each conditional has a specific structure that should be learned, made up of the condition and the result. We use modals to say how likely something is when we are using conditionals.

Video Analysis

The uses of conditionals are to:

  1. Make predictions

  2. Make offers
  3. Persuade someone to change something, or give advice

  4. Express regret

  5. Be polite

  6. Express the likelihood or possibility of something.

Making predictions

We make predictions with conditionals to talk about things that could happen in the future

  1. “If the sky is red, it will be sunny tomorrow.”

    or If we want to say that something is very likely.

    “If you practice playing the piano, you will get better.”

Conditionals are often used to make offers

'If you cook dinner, I will help.'

'If you sit down, I will get you a drink.'

I will get the report if you can wait for a moment.'

They are also useful to persuade someone to change something or give advice:

“If you studied hard, you would pass.”

Or for 'giving out' or complaining about something we wish was different.

“If you ate breakfast you wouldn't be hungry.”

'If you wore your coat, you wouldn't get sick.'

To express regret

“If I had joined the team, I would be travelling to Japan, ”

You might use conditionals to talk about how things might be different.

“If I had learned to drive, my father would have bought me a car”

'If you had lent him money, he would have returned it.'

This is an example of  an event that did not happen in the past: we call these events 'impossible'. They did not or could not happen.

In order to be polite

Using conditionals is often good manners. For example “I would like a cup of coffee”, is much more polite than saying “I want a cup of coffee”!

We use a lot of indirect requests like this in English to be polite.

To express the likelihood or possibility of something

Conditionals help to tell us if something is probable, possible, or likely/unlikely or impossible.

'When you work hard, you pass your exams' - The zero conditional is used for things that are true.

'If you work hard, you will pass your exams.' - The first conditional is used for situations that are possible and probable.

'If you worked hard, you would pass your exams.'. The second conditional is used for situations that are unlikely 

'If you had worked hard, you would have passed your exams', The third conditional is used to talk about an outcome that is now impossible.

Mixed Conditionals 

Mixed conditionals deal with conditions and results that talk about different time-frames and likelihoods in the same sentence.

eg. 'If I had an expensive car, I would be more popular.'

'If I had had an expensive car (in the past), I would be more popular (now).

Watch our video on 'Introduction to Conditionals' for more information on conditionals, lots of examples and their uses in English.

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