Conditionals – real or unreal?

 Introduction to English conditional sentences

What is a Conditional sentence in English?

Normally they have two parts (we call them “clauses“)

One part (clause) which usually starts with “if” gives a condition,

The other part gives us a result if that condition is true.


  • If it rains (conditional clause) I will take an umbrella (result clause)

This means: it rains –> I take an umbrella

(and probably) It doesn’t rain –> I don’t take an umbrella


There can be real and unreal conditions, possible and impossible conditions.

Sometimes they are classified as:

  • Zero conditional 
  • First (1st) Conditionals
  • Second (2nd) Conditionals
  • Third (3rd) Conditionals
  • Mixed Conditionals


The Real conditionals are classified into

These are real conditionals because if the conditional clause is met the result is certain


The Unreal conditionals are classified into:

  • Second Conditionals If I had more money I would change my car .. I don’t have more money so I can’t change my car
  • Third Conditionals If Mary had studied harder she would have passed her exams ……… she didn’t study hard enough so she didn’t pass her exams.

These are unreal conditionals because they refer to situations that are untrue, impossible or hypothetical. The third conditional for example refers to a situation that is past and is impossible to change


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