Conditional

From Teflpedia

A conditional (/kənˈdɪʃənəl/) is a sentence expresses dependence upon a condition. A conditional consists of at least two clauses; a conditional clause (often with "if") and a consequential clause.

Sometimes these are called "if sentences", though it’s possible to create conditionals without using if.

Examples are given below.

Classification[edit | edit source]

There are three broad types of conditionals in English; repeated conditionals, real conditionals (or factual conditionals) and unreal conditionals (or counterfactual conditionals), and both of these can be split into subtypes.

  • A repeated conditional has a condition that frequently happens (or happened). With an if clause acting as a conditional clause, If can be replaced with "when", "whenever", "every time", "each time" or "each and every time". The zero conditional is an example of a repeated conditional.
  • A real conditional has a condition that upon satisfaction has a highly probable consequence. In an if-clause, If cannot be replaced with "when", etc. The first conditional is an example of a real conditional.
  • An unreal conditional has a condition that the speaker/writer believes is hypothetical, unlikely, or impossible. In an if-clause, If cannot be replaced with "when", etc. These use the subjunctive (taking the form of the past tense) for distancing in reality. The second conditional, third conditional and mixed conditional are examples of unreal conditionals.

Pedagogical conditionals[edit | edit source]

The pedagogical conditionals, as taught to English language learners, consist of four basic types of conditionals. This is widely noted as being a pedagogic grammar oversimplification.

Name Example Factual or counterfactual? Condition time Consequence time Once or many times?
Zero conditional If I get an email, I read it. Factual General General Many times
First conditional If you don’t water this plant, it will die. Factual Present or future Present or future Once
Second conditional If I had a lot of money, I would buy a sports car. Counterfactual present or future Present or future Once
Third conditional If you hadn’t gone running, you wouldn’t have hurt yourself. Counterfactual Past Past Once


Additional conditionals[edit | edit source]

The classification above is widely noted as being a pedagogically grammatical oversimplification.

Name Example Factual or counterfactual? Condition time Consequence time Once or many times?
Zero conditional If I get an email, I read it. Factual General General Many times
Past zero conditional If I was naughty, my father struck me. Factual Past Past Many times
First conditional If you don’t water this plant, it will die. Factual Present or future Present or future Once
Second conditional If I had a lot of money, I would buy a sports car. Counterfactual present or future Present or future Once
Third conditional If you hadn’t gone running, you wouldn’t have hurt yourself. Counterfactual Past Past Once
Past condition, present consequence mixed conditional If you hadn’t fallen over, you wouldn’t have a broken leg. Counterfactual Past Present or future Once
Present condition, past consequence mixed conditional If I were American, I would have voted for Mrs Clinton. Counterfactual Present or future Past Once