Esl English Grammar-The 4 Conditionals Explained Ep 540

A photo of neighbourhood street party. In this lesson you will learn about conditionals: what they are, what their forms and meanings are, how to practice using them in conversation and how to avoid common mistakes that others make.

📝 Author: Hilary

📅 Published:

💬 2586 words ⏳ Reading Time 13 min


A Practical English Grammar Lesson To Help You Understand And Use Conditionals In English

English language learners often struggle with the English grammar concept of conditionals. In this lesson, I’ll explain the 4 conditional types in a straightforward way, along with examples of each type and its use. As a bonus, there is even a quiz at the end of the lesson to check you have improved your understanding.

Given there are only 4 types of conditional, you would think it is a pretty simple topic. Just learn the 4 types and it’s done. But as we often find in English grammar, the devil is in the detail. There are so many potential use cases for conditional types you can feel overwhelmed.

So in this English podcast lesson, we start with making sure you understand the rules for each type. So you have the tools to understand any use of conditional you might come across. Even if you’ve never taken an English grammar class, you’ll be able to follow my logical explanations and examples.

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Transcript: ESL English Grammar-The 4 Conditionals Explained

In this video podcast, let's tackle something which English language learners find difficult. It's a part of grammar, but you need it if you're going to understand English and speak it fluently. So today let's tackle conditionals, let's 'take the bull by the horns' to give an idiom on that. And if you don't know what conditionals are, then listen on and find out.

Hello, I’m Hilary, and you’re listening to Adept English. We will help you to speak English fluently. All you have to do is listen. So start listening now and find out how it works.

Conditionals

So we're going to do some English grammar today, and we're going to cover conditionals with 'if statements' and how to use them. If you don't know that term 'conditionals', then we are talking about a way of using verbs. And if we use the conditional, we're showing that something is not a certainty. It's not a statement, it's not something that's actually happening. Instead we're talking about a possibility, a 'maybe', something that might happen. That's what we mean when we say 'conditional verbs' or 'conditionals'.

So today conditionals with 'if' and I'll give you a couple of examples first of all.

  • If it rains this afternoon, I will bake a cake.
  • If it's sunny this afternoon, I will go for a walk.

So I'm talking about possibilities there. I'm talking about what I will do dependent upon the weather. It's not yet decided because it's not yet happened. So those are conditionals.

Types of Conditionals

Now, if you've studied conditionals in English before you'll know that they're often separated into different types. So you have Type 0, Type 1, Type 2 and Type 3 conditionals in English. And do you need to know that because they use verbs differently, they use different verb tenses. So it's useful when you're listening so that you could understand the subtlety of what you're hearing, what's being said. And if you're going to be fluent in English, you'll need to learn to use them yourself too.

Now I have done podcasts before on conditionals. If you have a look on our website, you'll be able to search on the term 'conditional'. And you'll find podcast 322, which is all about using conditionals without 'if', using conditionals in other ways. So that's a nice complement to this podcast and that's available for free on our website.

Yet Another Part Of Speech English Learners Struggle With-Homonyms

Previous Podcasts Covering Conditionals

If you want to go further with conditionals, I have taught them before. So in podcast, 202, I went into detail about Type 0 and Type 1 conditionals. And again, in podcast, 210, I talk about Type 2 and Type 3 conditionals. Now these are from a little while ago, so they're not available for free on our website, but they are available as part of a podcast bundle. So if you look at our Courses page at adeptenglish.com and go to podcast bundles - you've got to page down to get to them - it's the one that goes 201 to 250.

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So the podcasts on conditionals are in that particular bundle, but I'm going to go through them today anyway. So see how you do with this podcast first.

So Type 0, Type 1, Type 2 and Type 3 conditionals? Basically, we're talking about levels of possibility. So Type 0 are very, very possible and Type 3 are not possible. So there's sort of four grades of possibility, I guess, with these types of conditionals. Let me talk through each one of them.

Type 0

So Type 0 Conditionals are what I called 'General Truths', things that are always true. Examples would be:-

  • If the temperature goes below 0C, water freezes.
  • If it's my birthday, my husband takes me to a restaurant.
  • If you put sugar in your tea, it tastes sweet.

So we're talking here about things which always happen. If this, then that. If the condition is met, this always happens. So these are 'General Truths'. And you'll notice in terms of the tenses it's if plus Simple Present followed by Simple Present. So it's nice and simple

Type 1

Type 1 Conditionals. These are what I call 'Real Possibilities'. They haven't happened yet. They may not come true, but they are 'Real Possibilities'.

So here we use if plus Simple Present, then this 'will' happen. So you see the word will, W I L L that shows that it's a Type 1 possibility.

Some examples?

  • If that tree falls down, I will chop it up for firewood.
  • If I have his number, I will call him.
  • I'll go and get the shopping, if you tidy the house.
  • If the cat comes in, I will feed him.
  • If she sees her neighbour this afternoon, she will speak to him.

So these are if, if plus Simple Present and will, W I L L. So these are things that may well happen.

Type 2

So that brings us on to Type 2 Conditionals. And these are what I call 'Not Currently True And Much Less Likely'. So the chances of these things happening are a little less likely than Type 1 conditionals. And I'll use the same sentences here as examples to show you the difference.

  • If that tree fell down, I would chop it up for firewood.
  • If I had his number, I would call him.
  • I would go and get the shopping, if you tidied the house.
  • If the cat came in, I would feed him.
  • If she saw her neighbour this afternoon, she would speak to him.

So you see that the tenses are different here. It's if plus Simple Past and then 'would', W O U L D. So this makes the possibility a little bit more far away, a little bit more remote.

📷

A photograph of a neighbours talking. If you are going to improve your English grammar and impress native speakers with your flawless use of conditionals, you need to know exactly how each type of conditional works.

©️ Adept English 2022


  • I'll read you those sentences again, but with different endings to show you that these things are less likely.
  • If that tree fell down, I would chop it up for firewood, but it's probably going to be fine.
  • If I had his number, I would call him, but I don't think I have it.
  • I would go and get the shopping if you tidied the house, but you never do.
  • If the cat came in, I would feed him, but he's not been home for three days.
  • If she saw her neighbour this afternoon, she would speak to him, but we think he's gone on holiday.

So you can hear in those sentences, we're talking about possibilities, which are unlikely.

What was that phrase I used again, for Type 2s? ' Not Currently True And Much Less Likely'.

Type 3

OK. How about Type 3 Conditionals? These are the ones I call 'Not Going To Happen Now'. These are like 'lost opportunities', 'missed opportunities'. And the clue again is in the tenses. So if plus Past Perfect tense, 'would have'. If Past Perfect tense then 'would have'. That indicates that you're dealing with a Type 3 conditional.

So it's something that could have happened, but it's not going to now.

Those sentences again?

  • If that tree had fallen down, I would have chopped it up for firewood.
  • If I had had his number, I would have called him.
  • I would have gone and got the shopping, if you had tidied the house.
  • If the cat had come in, I would have fed him.
  • If she had seen her neighbour this afternoon, she would have spoken to him.

So the meaning with all of these is that, well, it could have happened, but it didn't. It's not going to happen now.

So very often conditionals show that range of possibility from something that always happens, if certain conditions are met - like water freezing if the temperature goes below zero degrees Celsius - all the way through the range to Type 3s, which mean 'It's not going to happen now. It was a possibility, but it's not anymore'.

Conditionals Can Show The Mindset Of The Speaker

But what we also use conditionals for is to show something of the mindset of the speaker. If I read you three sentences...these are Type 1, Type 2 and Type 3, you'll get what I mean. You'll understand what I mean.

  • Type 1. If I win the lottery, I will buy a big house in the country. This sounds like I really believe I might win. I'm holding out for that possibility.
  • Type 2. If I won the lottery, I would buy a big house in the country. Well, here, it sounds like I'm daydreaming. I know it's a distant possibility, but I'm just thinking about, 'Ooh, what if? What if I won the lottery?'
  • Type 3. If I had won the lottery, I would have bought a big house in the country. So this one sounds like the possibility is now closed. It's now not going to happen. Perhaps I've stopped buying lottery tickets. That's what that one means.

So they can add subtlety to the meaning of what somebody is trying to say. So your first stage is to learn to understand the subtle meanings, and then you will move towards being able to use these conditional tenses correctly yourself. It will make you more expressive in English.

Quiz On Conditionals

OK, quiz time. Now it's time to test yourself. I'm just going to run through the types again, just to remind you of what they mean and which tenses they use. And then I'll give you some quiz questions.

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Type 0 conditionals are 'General Truths'. So it's if plus Simple Present, Simple Present. Type 1 'Real Possibilities', things that really could happen. So if with Simple Present tense will, something will happen. Type 2 conditionals. 'Not Currently True And Much Less Likely'. So the verbs there, if plus Simple Past would, W O U L D. Something would happen. Type 3 conditionals. These are the ones I call 'Not Going To Happen Now'. These are the missed opportunities. So it's if with Past Perfect plus 'would have'. So those are the indicators in the verb tenses of what type of condition that you're hearing.

So I will give you eight sentences with a mix of these types of conditionals. You need to say whether you think they're Type 0, Type 1, Type 2 or Type 3. Of course the answers are on our website. Here goes.

  • Number one. If I have time on my way home from work, I will buy some peaches.
  • Number two. If you had bought the book, I would have read it.
  • Number three. If you drive to Oxford from here, you pass Banbury on the way.
  • Number four. If you introduced your sister, I would help her find a job.
  • Number five. If it rains, the cats come indoors.
  • Number six, if my uncle had parked more carefully, he wouldn't have damaged the garage door.
  • Number seven. If they go to Spain, they will visit Barcelona.
  • Number eight. If they went to Spain, they would visit Barcelona.

Quiz Answers

OK. So the answers to that quiz are in the transcript on our website at adeptenglish.com. I suggest you listen to this podcast a number of times, and then these conditionals and their subtle meanings and differences and the different tenses that they use will be something that you'll be able to remember more easily.

Goodbye

Listen to this podcast, a number of times so that you really understand conditionals. Then you can not only understand them, but you can move towards using them yourself.

Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.

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