What Are the Different Types of Conditional Sentences in English?

Delivering your message clearly while writing or speaking requires you to use the right sentence at the right moment. However, it is only possible when you are aware of various types of sentences and their further subtypes. Have you ever paid attention to conditional sentences and their types? Even though we use such sentences in everyday conversations and writings, very few pay attention to them.


What is the reason behind it? A simple answer is we already know how to use them. However, when you are using complex sentences like conditionals, it sometimes becomes difficult to figure out which type will suit your conversation or writing. Choosing the right type of conditional sentence is only possible when you know all the types and understand where you should use one.

If you are one of those people who often become confused when it comes to choosing the right conditional sentence, then you have landed at the right place. We have everything to guide you about the proper use of conditionals. Sounds interesting? Yes, it is! You just need to pay attention to everything this article discusses, and you will easily understand the concept of conditionals.

Further details are given below. 

What Are Conditional Sentences?

Before we discuss various types of conditional sentences, it is essential to understand the definition of a conditional sentence. Simply put, conditional sentences are the type of sentences that lay out a particular condition. The word ‘if’ plays a pivotal part in making any sentence conditional. This ‘if’ word can be placed at the beginning or middle of a conditional sentence. 

The basic purpose of using a conditional sentence is to describe a potential situation and its possible consequences. Hence, a conditional sentence could be segmented into two parts: one that describes a condition and the other that outlines its possible consequence. The part that sets the condition is termed the subordinate clause, while the one that describes the result is called the main clause. 

Types of Conditional Sentences

This section discusses various types of conditional sentences and the moment you should use them in detail. Read on to learn more.

Zero Conditional Sentences

This type of conditional sentences is used when you want to convey a known fact or general truth. You can also use these sentences to express things that regularly occur. Generally, you will see a zero conditional sentence featuring main and subordinate clauses discussed in simple future tense. However, you may also need to use other tenses in some conditions. It is worth mentioning that using the simple future tense to discuss the main clause is a big no-no in a zero conditional sentence. 

Here are some examples of zero conditional sentences.

If you heat water to 100 degrees Celsius, it boils.

Water boils if you heat it to 100 degrees Celsius.

If you don’t brush your teeth, you get cavities.

You get cavities if you don’t brush your teeth.

First Conditional Sentences

These conditional sentences are mainly used when you are trying to outline likely outcomes of a particular condition. The simple present tense is used to describe the subordinate clause, which is often followed by a modal or an imperative verb. Conversely, the main clause uses the simple future tense. It is worth mentioning that you can also use phrases like unless, as long as, as soon as, or in case while writing or speaking first conditional sentences. 

A few examples of first conditional sentences will help you understand their structure better.

Unless she arrives late, we will start the meeting on time.

We will start meeting on time unless she arrives late.

If you exercise regularly, you will feel healthier.

You will feel healthier if you exercise regularly.

Second Conditional Sentences

Second conditional sentences feature unlikely, hypothetical, or impossible events happening in the present or future. You must use the simple past tense to write the subordinate clause. After that, you must add a modal verb for past tense, such as would, should, or could. The base form of the main verb describing the consequence in the main clause would follow it. Here are some examples of second conditional sentences.

If I won the lottery, I would travel the world.

I would travel the world if I won the lottery.

If he was here, we would enjoy our time out.

We would enjoy our time out if he was here. 

Third Conditional Sentences

The last type of conditionals is third conditional sentences. The main purpose of using these sentences is to describe the alteration in present scenarios due to something happening differently in the past. Simply put, these sentences are used to convey hypothetical past situations. The structure of these sentences is quite different from other types of conditionals. You will use the past perfect tense, which will be a combination of had and past participle in the subordinate clause. A past modal auxiliary verb will follow the subordinate clause. You will also add the helping verb have and the past participle in the main clause. 

Here are some examples of these sentences. 

If he had asked for directions, he wouldn’t have gotten lost.

He wouldn’t have gotten lost if he had asked for directions.

If it had snowed, we would have built a snowman.

We would have built a snowman if it had snowed.

Ensuring Perfect Use of Various Conditionals in Writing

Practice makes you perfect. You must give it a shot and try to write various types of conditional sentences yourself so that you can use them to describe various scenarios perfectly. However, if you find this task tricky, an exceptional AI-backed grammar checker could be your friend. Such a tool will perform a grammar check for you and highlight mistakes you have made while writing content. 

Such a modern tool uses sophisticated NLP techniques to understand the intent and context. Hence, it can also easily identify the type of conditionals you are trying to use and suggest rectifications if it observes any issues. This tool can go beyond grammar and spell check to make your content truly impeccable and help you improve your language proficiency.

In the End

Outlining conditions or events, whether realistic or hypothetical, perfectly while writing content is only possible if you know all the types of conditional sentences. We have discussed everything you must know about the use of various conditionals. Hopefully, you will find this article useful and keep its takeaways in mind to clearly describe various situations, events, and scenarios using the right conditional sentences!