IELTS grammar: conditional sentences
This section of our website focuses on essential grammar for IELTS, with tips, hints and exercises that you can use both in the writing and the speaking test.
Conditional sentences are ‘if’ sentences. There are five types of conditional sentences:
- zero conditional sentences
- first conditional sentences
- second conditional sentences
- third conditional sentences
- mixed conditional sentences
*Mixed conditionals are created from two different conditional forms.
Look at the table that follows for examples of each of the different types of conditional sentences.
|The zero conditional||If you heat ice, it melts.|
|The first conditional||If I learn better English, I will get a better job.|
|The second conditional||If I won the lottery, I would buy a big house.|
|The third conditional||If I had studied harder, I would have passed my exam.|
|Mixed conditionals||If I hadn’t broken my leg, I would be skiing right now.|
|Structure 1||If + present simple + comma (,) + present simple|
|Example||If you heat ice, it melts.|
|Structure 2||Present simple + if + present simple|
|Example||Ice melts if you heat it.|
|Use||We use the zero conditional to talk about rules, laws or truths. Using the example above, we know that if you heat ice, it melts; it is a fact that if the first part happens, then the second action will also happen.|
|Structure 1||If + present simple + comma (,) + will + base verb|
|Example||If I learn better English, I will get a better job.|
|Structure 2||Will + base verb + if + present simple|
|Example||I will get a better job if I learn better English.|
|Use||We use the first conditional to talk about results that are likely; if the first part happens, then the second action will probably / be likely to also happen.|
|Structure 1||If + past simple + comma (,) + would + base verb|
|Example||If I won the lottery, I would buy a big house in the country.|
|Structure 2||Would + base verb + if + past simple|
|Example||I would buy a big house in the country if I won the lottery.|
|Use||We use the second conditional to talk about a situation that is either not likely or even impossible; the speaker believes that they probably won’t win the lottery.|
|Structure 1||If + past perfect + comma (,) + would have + past participle|
|Example||If I had studied harder, I would have passed my exam.|
|Structure 2||Would have + past participle + if + past perfect|
|Example||I would have passed my exam if I had studied harder.|
|Use||We use the third conditional to talk unreal situations, often involving regret. The third conditional talks about a situation that did not happen, but what the result would have been if it had.|
Mixed conditional sentences talk about unreal situations, they can talk about the past, present or future. Study the table below to learn how mixed conditional sentences can be put together.
NB: There are many different forms of mixed conditional.
|Type 1||If I hadn’t broken my leg,||
I would be skiing right now.
|Past condition||Present result|
|Type 2||If John hadn’t forgotten to buy tickets,||
I would be going to the concert tomorrow night.
|Past condition||Future result|
|Type 3||If I could use a computer,||
I would have got that job yesterday.
|Present condition||Past result|
|Type 4||If you could speak better English,||you would be going on the business trip to London next week.|
|Present condition||Future result|
Click here to try the conditional sentences exercises.