1st & 2nd Conditional

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Welcome to your 1st & 2nd Conditional lesson! In this topic we talk about:
• Understanding clauses
The First Conditional
The Second Conditional
“Could” and “Might”.
Take the quizzes when you’re ready! If you’re having problems, use the comment box to contact our English Teachers.

Understanding clauses

Conditional sentences are composed of two parts. The part that contains the words “if” or “when” is called the if clause. The other part that is sort of the “result” of the conditional sentence is called the main clause. Conditional sentences can be formed in two ways:

If you go out, take an umbrella.
if clause, main clause

Take an umbrella if you go out.
main clause if clause

Notice that a comma is used when the if clause comes first, and it is not needed when the main clause comes first.

The First Conditional

Here are a few examples of first conditional sentences:

“If I see him later, I‘ll tell him.”

“If you study hard, you‘ll improve your English.”

In both these examples, the if clause is possible. (I might see him later, you might study hard.) When this is the case, we use the first conditional. Sentences are formed like this:

If + Present Simple, Will + Verb

With the first conditional, “when” can be used to replace “if”, but it changes the meaning of the if clause:

If I see him, I’ll tell him.”
(It’s possible that I will see him)

When I see him, I’ll tell him.”
(I will definitely see him)

The Second Conditional

The second conditional is used when the if clause is either impossible or highly improbable:

“If I met an Alien, I would cook them a nice meal”
(Improbable to meet an alien)

“If I were you, I would drink less coffee.”
(Impossible to be you)

Second conditional sentences are formed like this:

If + Past Simple, Would + Verb

Even though the Past Simple is used in the if clause, the meaning is not past.

With the second conditional, “when” cannot be used at all.


“Would” is normally only used in the main clause:

“You‘d be richer if you worked harder.”

“If I met the Queen, I would be so excited!”

In very rare occasions, “would” can be used in the if clause. This is only when you ask someone to do something very formally:

“I would be very grateful if you would join us to celebrate our wedding.”

“Could” and “Might”

Depending upon the situation, “would” can also be replaced by “could” or “might”:

“If you came out tonight, you might have a nice time.”

” We could go to the beach if the weather was nicer.”


  • The first conditional: Used when the if clause is possible or likely. The form is: If + Present simple, Will + Verb.
  • The second conditional: Used when the if clause is impossible or improbable. The form is: If + Past Simple, Would + Verb.
  • “When” can be used in a first conditional sentence, but not in a second conditional sentence.
  • “Could” or “might” can replace “would” in second conditional sentences.

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