Weird conditionals: if-clauses that are always true

Weird Conditionals: If-Clauses That Are Always True

Conditional sentences are one of the trickier parts of English grammar: there are 5 types of conditional sentences, and you need to be able to use and identify all of them.As a rule, conditional sentences in English consist of two parts – the main part and the if part (or the conditional part).

  • These types of sentences are used to express possible or imaginary situations.
  • The order of these two parts of the sentence isn’t important.
  • When written, if the if part of the sentence comes first, a comma should be used to separate it from the second part.

5 Types of Conditional Sentences

 Before we get started, here’s a brief chart summarizing the 5 types of conditional sentences and how they’re used:

Conditional sentence type When to use Main clause If-clause
Type Zero Describing known facts Simple present Simple present
Type 1 A possible situation and the result Will + infinitive Simple present
Type 2 A hypothetical condition and its possible result Would + infinitive Simple past
Type 3 An impossible past situation and its result in the past Would + perfect infinitive Past perfect
Mixed Conditionals An impossible past situation and its result in the present Past perfect Present conditional

Type Zero Conditional Sentences (zero condition)

This type of conditional sentence is used to describe scientific facts, generally known truths, events and other things that are always true.

I think it’s the simplest type of conditional sentence in English.

The structure of Type Zero conditional sentences:

Main part: Present Simple; if part: Present Simple


  •         Water boils if you heat it to 100 degrees Celsius.
  •         A red light comes on if you press the main button.

In Type Zero sentences, if can be replaced by when.


  •         When you heat ice, it melts.
  •         It gets dark when the sun goes down.

Type One Conditional Sentences (open condition)

This type of sentence expresses real and possible situations in the future; it is possible for the condition to be met.

The structure of Type One conditional sentences:

Main part: will + infinitive; if part: Present Simple


  •         We will stay at home if it snows.
  •         She will get angry if I‘m late for the party.
  •         If we get the money for this job, we will buy a new car.
  •         Will you help Amanda if she asks you?

Type Two Conditional Sentences (half-open condition)

This type of conditional sentence describes an unreal situation with regard to the present or future; a hypothetical condition that can only be fulfilled in theory.

The structure of Type Two conditional sentences:

  1. Main part: would + infinitive; if part: Past Simple
  2. In conditional sentences, the past tense form of the verb to be is were for all persons; was is also used, although only in spoken or conversational English.

  3. Examples:
  •         We would stay at home if it snowed.
  •         I would buy a new board if I had more money.
  •         If he were rich, he‘d buy an island.
  •         If you left now, you‘d catch the last bus.

Type two conditional sentences are also used when making polite requests.


  •         I would be grateful if you helped me.
  •         He would be so pleased if you came to the birthday party.

The phrases If I were you or If I were in your place are usually used to give advice.


  •         If I were you I would accept the offer.
  •         If he were in your place he would do it.

Type Three Conditional Sentences (closed condition)

Type three conditional sentences are used to express situations that cannot exist, such as actions or events that happened in the past. They are often used to indicate a missed opportunity.

The structure of Type Three conditional sentences:

Main part: would + perfect infinite; if part: Past Perfect


  •         If you hadn’t been late for work, the boss wouldn’t have gotten furious.
  •         They would have finished earlier if the meeting hadn’t been held so late.
  •         If I had won the lottery, I would have bought a house by the sea.
  •         Would you have helped me if I had asked you?

Mixed Conditionals

  • This type of conditional sentence uses (mixes) different parts of the above-mentioned conditional sentence types.
  • There are a few combinations: the condition emphasizes the result of the action in the present in the past tense, or the present-day condition emphasizes the result of the action in the past.
  • Examples:
  •         If you had taught me how to make waffles (in the past), I wouldn’t have to buy them in a shop (now).
  •         I would buy a house by the sea (now or in the future) if I had won the lottery last week.
  •         Their team would have scored more in the match yesterday if they were good players.

Important Grammatical Notes

If the modal verbs can/could, may/might or should are used in the main part of the sentence, they take the place of will:

  •         We can go to the seaside if you have time tomorrow.
  •         If you leave now, you may catch the last bus.
  •         If you want to pass the exam, you should study much harder.

The words will and would are not usually used in the if part, except when they express willingness, for example, in requests (that is, when they carry a modal meaning):

  •         If you will phone the manager now, he will surely make an appointment with you. (willingness)
  •         I would be very thankful if you would help me with my homework. (very polite request)

The word should in the if part can mean “if perhaps” or “by any chance.”

Mixed Verb Tenses in English: Conditionals and IF clauses engVid

Hi Adam,

Good day!

While browsing the net about some stuff to learn about the English language, I have come across your videos on Youtube. All your videos, I’d say, are very instructive and informative. Thanks for sharing the gift of wisdom to everyone.

By the way, hope you could make a comprehensive lesson about the English tenses. I, being a second language learner too, understand the difficulty of those who are also studying your language. One of which is tense usage.

Maybe, some would argue that it’s easy as there are grammar books that prescribe it usage. However, I don’t find it that much helpful in dealing with complex structures, not to add, of course, the exceptions.

In all of my readings, I have seen discussed on grammar books about the use of the tenses, but , I feel, disconnection in it and it’s not enough to foreground or give any second language learner a better grounding of the English language. I hope you could come up with a lesson that deals on how tenses operate in Clauses and what circumstances affect it. I have few examples below

What she said IS true versus What she said WAS true.
The man who went there last night IS my friend versus The Man who went there last night WAS my friend.

Hope you’ll be able to provide a discussion about the grammatical accuracy of those sample sentences whether they are acceptable usage or not and what are the semantical differences in the meaning if this structure is permissible.

See also:  13 dog breeds with fun name origins

Thanks heaps!

Conditional | English Grammar | EF

Conditional tenses are used to speculate about what could happen, what might have happened, and what we wish would happen. In English, most sentences using the conditional contain the word if. Many conditional forms in English are used in sentences that include verbs in one of the past tenses.

This usage is referred to as “the unreal past” because we use a past tense but we are not actually referring to something that happened in the past. There are five main ways of constructing conditional sentences in English. In all cases, these sentences are made up of an if clause and a main clause.

In many negative conditional sentences, there is an equivalent sentence construction using “unless” instead of “if”.

Conditional sentence type
If clause verb tense
Main clause verb tense
Zero General truths Simple present Simple present
Type 1 A possible condition and its probable result Simple present Simple future
Type 2 A hypothetical condition and its probable result Simple past Present conditional or Present continuous conditional
Type 3 An unreal past condition and its probable result in the past Past perfect Perfect conditional
Mixed type An unreal past condition and its probable result in the present Past perfect Present contditional

The zero conditional

The zero conditional is used for when the time being referred to is now or always and the situation is real and possible.

The zero conditional is often used to refer to general truths. The tense in both parts of the sentence is the simple present.

In zero conditional sentences, the word “if” can usually be replaced by the word “when” without changing the meaning.

If clause
Main clause
If + simple present simple present
If this thing happens that thing happens.
If you heat ice it melts.
If it rains the grass gets wet.

Read more about how to use the zero conditional.

Type 1 conditional

The type 1 conditional is used to refer to the present or future where the situation is real. The type 1 conditional refers to a possible condition and its probable result. In these sentences the if clause is in the simple present, and the main clause is in the simple future.

If clause
Main clause
If + simple present simple future
If this thing happens that thing will happen.
If you don't hurry you will miss the train.
If it rains today you will get wet.

Read more about how to use the type 1 conditional.

Type 2 conditional

The type 2 conditional is used to refer to a time that is now or any time, and a situation that is unreal

The Zero Conditional in Action – English Grammar

Zero conditionals are a really useful and simple English grammar structure. We often use them to talk about scientific facts, but that’s not their only use.

In this video your see lots of zero conditional examples and learn how you can also use it to talk about habits and routines and even the past.

Zero conditionals have two clauses: the condition and result. We’ll show you how to form them, make negatives, punctuate them and reverse the order. You’ll learn about when and if in zero conditionals and cause effect relationships.

  • And just to check that all is clear we finish with a zero conditionals quiz.
  • Click here to see more grammar videos.
  • Click here to learn about if and in case.

If you breathe in helium, your voice goes funny.

Hello everyone. I’m Vicki.And I’m Jay and this lesson’s about the zero conditional.It’s a really useful and really simple structure. You’ll love it.We often use it to talk about scientific facts.

Let’s see some examples.

If you heat water, it boils.If ice gets warm, it melts.

So it’s really easy. The sentences have two parts, two clauses. One is the condition, and one is the result. The condition, the result.We use the present simple in both clauses. It’s if with the present simple, and then the present simple again.And we can reverse the order of the clauses. These sentences mean the same thing.

But notice the punctuation is different. If the sentence starts with ‘if’, we use a comma. The comma separates the condition and the result. But if ‘if’ comes in the middle of the sentence, the comma isn’t necessary.That happens in other conditionals too. We can change the order of the two clauses.Yeah, but you know what we need to look at next .

What?How to form negatives.

Let’s see.

What’s this ice cream doing here?Oh, I might have some later.If you don’t keep it in the freezer, it melts.I forgot about it.And the cream?What about it?If you put it in the fridge, it doesn’t go off.

Well, I’m going to have some now.

You heard two examples. If you don’t keep it in the freezer, it melts. If you put it in the fridge, it doesn’t go off.So how do we form the negatives? It’s the present simple tense, so we use don’t and doesn’t.To go off means to go bad so you can’t drink it.

In American English we’d say spoil. The milk spoiled.We could say that in British English but it sounds old fashioned to me. We say go off.Say spoil.Now there’s something very special about zero conditionals. It’s something that only happens in this kind of conditional.

What’s that?

We can switch the word ‘if’ for ‘when’.

If you breathe in helium, your voice goes funny.When you breathe in helium your voice goes funny.

So if, when, they’re both correct here and these sentences mean the same thing.It’s a special feature of this conditional.

In other conditionals ‘if’ and ‘when’ mean different things, but in zero conditionals they mean the same.It’s because we’re talking about things that always happen.If you breathe in helium, the result is always the same.

So if you do it, when you do it, it doesn’t matter because the same thing happens every time.

With zero conditionals one thing always leads to another.

I’m back.Oh. What did you buy?Chocolate brownies. You’re going to love themWow. But if we eat too many brownies, we put on weight.Oh. Do you want me to eat yours then?

Heck no!

There’s a cause effect relationship here. Brownies cause weight gain.Yes, brownies are the cause and the effect is we put on weight.It’s a sad fact of life.And that’s why we use a zero conditional. We use them with facts and in situations where something always happens.

That means that we can also use them to talk about habits and routines.

See also:  Transitive and intransitive verbs

I read the newspaper every day and if I see a good investment opportunity, I call my broker and tell her to buy.I read the newspaper every day too, but I start at the back and read the sports pages.

When you snooze, you lose.

So here I used the zero conditional to describe a habit, a routine of mine.And did you notice this one? ‘When you snooze you lose.’ It’s an idiom.To snooze means to have a short light sleep.‘When you snooze you lose’ means you have to act fast to get what you want. It’s another general truth. A fact of life.OK, the next thing we need to talk about is the past.

Ah yes. We usually use zero conditionals to talk about the present, but we can also use them to talk about things that were true in the past.

When I went to school in England, we had to wear a uniform.In my school we could wear whatever we wanted.Mmm. When we forgot our tie, we were in trouble.I didn’t wear a tie.And if our skirt was too short, the teachers sent us home.

And I didn’t wear a skirt either.

So again, these sentences are about general truths, but they’re things that that were always true in the past.The structure is the same as before, but instead of the present simple, we use the past tense.

And again, we can switch ‘if’ for ‘when’, and ‘when’ for ‘if’.So we’ve looked at the present and the past. Are we finished now?No, there’s another very important question.

How is the zero conditional different from the first conditional?

They are similar. Let’s look at some examples and see if you can work out the difference.

If you don’t put ice cream in the freezer, it melts.

Was I talking generally about ice cream here? Yes. All ice cream melts if it gets warm. So this is a general truth. Now let’s look at a different example?

If you don’t put this ice cream in the freezer, it’ll melt.

Was Vicki talking about ice cream in general here? No. This one’s different. She was talking about a particular carton of ice cream.We use the zero conditional to talk about what happens in general, and the first conditional to talk about a particular situation.So the zero conditional is about what always happens, and the first conditional is about what happens in a particular case.

In many situations we might use a zero or first conditional, but there’s a difference in meaning. General – particular.We’re making another video about the first conditional. So make sure you subscribe to our channel so you don’t miss it.I think we should have a review now. Let’s see what you can remember.We use zero conditionals to talk about things that are always true.

We use them when one action always follows another.In zero conditionals ‘if’ means the same as ‘when’. We can say ‘if’ or ‘when’ and the meaning doesn’t change.The word ‘if’ comes at the start or in the middle of a sentence. Just remember to use a comma if you start the sentence with ‘if’.We use zero conditionals to talk about what’s true in all situations.

They’re general truths, We don’t use them if we’re thinking of specific or particular situations.We can use zero conditionals to talk about routines and habits in the present and the past.They just have to be things that always happen in the present or always happened in the past.And that’s it! Now you know how we use zero conditionals in English.

If you’ve enjoyed this video, please share it with a friend.And see you next week everyone. Bye.


  • June 5, 2020
  • May 22, 2020
  • May 8, 2020
  • April 24, 2020

Episode 8: Boost your Conditionals

Hello my friends!

Today we are going to speak about a topic of 'English Conditionals', this a rather tricky topic, most students do not feel confident about it. But although it is not an easy thing to deal with, it can be presented in a very simple and structured way, so that there is no more mess in your head. And all you need is practice.

I have created some schemes for you with examples and also you can opt-in to download a pdf with some exercises. We also have a Live Class 'Boost your Conditionals', it is available upon request.

You can check the schedule of the upcoming events to join in, or send us email to request the class and you will be notified when it is available.

You can follow the audio with the arrows on the Prezi below or on the images. The Prezi can be full screened in the right-hand corner, it is not the video.

There are five types of conditionals in English: zero, first, second, third and mixed. Today we are going to speak about all of them except for the mixed ones.

First let's check what a conditional is: it is a sentence, that consists of two parts. One of them is an if-clause, which has the condition, the other one is the main clause with the result.

It is important that you can start the sentence with any clause without any major difference in meaning.

We use 'Zero Conditionals' to talk about general truth, laws of nature, scientific facts and instructions. These all facts are always true.

The 'if-clause' has the condition, it can start with if or when with no or little meaning change. The main clause has the result. Both of the clauses in this type of conditionals have Present Simple.

Check the examples on the slides.

  • If I touched Jimmy, he would burst into tears. Is it true that “it rains in California”? Yes. Is it true that “everybody
    always gets gloomy”? No. Therefore, sentence (1) is false.

    But of course that line of reasoning doesn't make sense.

    We have to
    understand the phrase
    “in California” as taking the entire sentence in its
    scope, just as we understand “everbody” as taking in Californians
    who experience rain, which is not at all what “everybody”
    means in a self-standing sentence.

    Sentence (1) is undoubtedly false, but not for
    the reason worked out from the truth-table for material implication.

    Is it true that “I touched Jimmy”? No. I wouldn't think of it. Is
    it true that “he would burst into tears”? I can't answer that, since
    a sentence with a conditional modal can't be evaluated on its own.

    Assuming, for the same of argument, that the second clause is either true
    or false, then sentence (2) is true.

    But we know, of course, that the
    truth of this sentence, as we usually understand it, cannot be determined
    in that way.

    See also:  Misplaced modifiers

    The point is, of course, that the subtle ways in which we understand the
    actual conditional sentences that get used in everyday talk involve
    detailed consideration of the actual grammatical form of the sentences

    Types of Meanings of Conditional Sentences

    Eve Sweetser, in From Etymology to Pragmatics has classified
    conditional semantics according to the three domains she speaks of in
    that book, the content domain, the epistemic domain, and
    the speech act domain. Content-based conditionals are understood
    by relating the content of the two clauses to each other.

    A typical
    way in which content conditionals can be understood is for the “P” clause
    to identify a situation which causes or automatically results in the
    state of affairs signalled by the “Q” clause. This is the case for

    • If you drop it, it will break.
    • If you say that again, I'll slap you.
    • If it rains, we'll cancel the picnic.

    Epistemic conditionals are understood as expressions of the reasoning
    process. If the state of affairs represented by the “P” clause turns
    out to be true, then we are licensed to believe what we are told in the
    “Q” clause.


    • If their lights are on, the Wilsons are home from their vacation.
    • If the streets are wet, it rained last night.
    • If she wins, she's been practicing in secret.

    And speech act conditionals are understood as pre-posing to a speech
    act a “P” clause that identifies the situation which got the speaker to
    provide the speech act. Thus:

    • If you're hungry, I could find something for you in the fridge.
    • If you leave before I see you again, have a good time.
    • If what I said offended you, I apologize.

    We will see, in comparing the verbal forms of conditional sentences,
    that some combinations can only have the epistemic interpretation, others
    can have either an epistemic or a content interpretation. I have not
    explored the formal conditions for being a speech-act conditional.

    Verbal Forms

    A major descriptive problem that grammarians have to face in dealing with English conditional sentences involves the complex system of compatibility relations between the two parts of a conditional sentence.

    That is, certain verbal forms occurring in the antecedent clause of a conditional sentence are compatible only with certain other verbal forms in the consequent clause.

    Some examples of compatible combinations are these:

    • If she opens it, they will escape.
    • If she opened it, they would escape.
    • If she had opened it, they would have escaped.
    • If she opened it, they escaped.

    Some examples of incompatible (or at least difficult-to-contextualize) combinations are the following:

    • *If she'll open it, they had escaped.
    • *If she were here, I'll be happy.
    • *If she opens it, she had misunderstood my message.

    What we need for this set of facts is some set of general principles according to which these acceptability judgments, and the accompanying interpretations, can get explained.

    The tools we need for stating these principles include the following:

    • First, we need to have a vocabulary for describing the various verbal forms which enter into the compatibility relations just mentioned;
    • second, we need to speak of something I will refer to as “epistemic stance” – the speaker's stance on the reality of the proposition expressed in the antecedent clause;
    • third, we will need to notice that some sentences give expression to what we can call the “interlocutors' interest” – the speaker's view that of the alternatives recognized by a conditional sentence, one is looked on as matching the speaker's or the hearer's interest (this will be modified below); and
    • fourth, we will need to notice features of “polarity” – the difference between positive polarity and negative polarity.

    Describing the selection of verbal forms in English conditional sentences is made complex by the facts that some of the relevant categories are not identifiable with particular morphemes or particular individual grammatical notions, but with complexes of these.

    What this means is that we will have to give different names to forms that have the same, or almost the same, superficial appearance.

    Furthermore, in discussing the categories we need, it is necessary to keep in mind the difference between “Time” (which we take as a semantic notion) and “Tense” (a grammatical notion).

    The names of the verbal-form categories we will use are these:

    • present

      the form which, in the copula, results
      in is, am, are and in the non-modal verbs uses
      the sibilant suffix to express third-person-singular agreement (walks)

    • past

      the form which, in the copula, results
      in was, were and otherwise, in the
      “regular” cases, the simple past-tense
      inflection (walked)

    • future

      the expression of future meaning with
      the modal will followed by the
      unmarked infinitive

    • present subjunctive

      this form is the same as the past-
      tense form, except that, in some
      dialects (perhaps especially in the
      U.S.) there is a single form for the
      copula: were

    • past subjunctive

      this form is the same as the
      pluperfect form (had gone, etc.),
      except that in colloquial English we
      also find a more complex form
      (had've gone, etc.), and in colloquial
      American English we find a form
      identical to what I will call
      “conditional perfect”: would have

    • conditional

      this form is constructed with would or
      could plus the unmarked infinitive
      (would go, etc).

    • conditional perfect

      this form is constructed with would or
      could plus the perfect infinitive
      (would have gone, etc.)

    In general, “perfect aspect” and “progressive aspect” can coexist with most of these forms and contribute their own meanings. In other words, in describing a conditional antecedent, the form “if he has seen her” will be simply classified as “present” for present purposes.

    Epistemic Stance

    In the immediately following discussion we will combine conditional sentences with sentences having a temporal subordinate clause. We can distinguish three sorts of epistemic stance – positive, neutral, and negative – which will indicate the degree of the speaker's commitment to the actuality of the proposition expressed in a subordinate clause. In the case of positive epistemic stance, the speaker accepts the truth of the proposition expressed in the subordinate clause: Thus, in “when Pat opened the door, the dog escaped”, the speaker accepts the idea that Pat did indeed open the door and asserts that at that time the dog escaped.
    In the case of neutral epistemic stance, the speaker takes no stand on the truth of the proposition expressed by the subordinate clause. Thus in, “If Pat left the door open, the dog undoubtedly escaped”, the speaker does not know whether or not Pat left the door open, but asserts an unfortunate consequence of such a state of affairs.
    And in the case of negative epistemic stance

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