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The English Conditional Tense

English For Israel The English Conditional Tense

The English conditional tense is a critical part of English grammar that you need to know if you want to speak good English. 

The conditional tense is used when you speculate about what could happen, what might have happened, or what you want to have happen in the future.

There are four types of conditionals, and we are are going to look at each with a few examples. 

The First Conditional

The first conditional tense refers to specific truths. This means it is possible and also likely that the condition shall come to pass. It expresses a future scenario that might happen.

For example:

  • If I get paid today, I will buy some groceries.

  • We could travel, if we save some money.

The Second Conditional

The second conditional refers to events that are unlikely to happen. It refers to either a future hypothetical that is unlikely to be true, or present conditions that are untrue or impossible.

For example:

  • If I were to win the lottery, I would buy a castle.

  • If I had more free time, I would travel the world.

The Third Conditional

The third conditional is about an unreal situation in the past. The third and the second conditional in some circumstances also refer to any impossible events. The main difference is that the second conditional refers to impossibilities in the present, while the third conditional refers to the impossibilities of the past.

For example:

  • If I had known you would get angry, I would have remained silent.

  • I might have seen you, had I have passed you in the park.

The Zero Conditional

We use the zero conditional tense to make general statements that concerns the real world. It often used to talk about to general truths. When the zero conditional, we are referring to the present, or something that usually happens and the situation is usually real and possible. The zero conditional expresses something that is a universal truth.

For example:

  • If you melt ice, it becomes water.

  • If you mix red and yellow paint, it becomes green. 

Overall, the complexity of the conditional tense, along with the irregular verbs and use of the subjunctive mood, makes it difficult for non-native speakers.

However, with practice and exposure to different examples, non-native speakers improve their understanding and use of the conditional tense.


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