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Real Conditionals

Conditional sentences have two parts – a condition and a result.

If the condition is true, then the result is true or will happen. (This sentence is a conditional!)

We usually express the condition with "if...". But sometimes we express a condition with "when..." or "unless...".

We will cover the word "unless" more in a future lesson.

We can express real conditionals in the present tense, past tense, future tense, or with continuous verb tenses.

Let's look at each tense separately and see how and when each one is used.

Present Real Conditionals

These conditionals are used to talk about general truths or things that you normally do in real life.

If/When + condition + (then) result
Result + if/when + condition

Both the result and the condition are in the present tense.
  • If you don't give water to plants, then they die.
  • If you eat vegetables, you can be healthy.
  • When it rains, I usually stay home.
  • I cook at home if I have time.
  • She spends time with her family when she does not work on Saturday.
  • She yells when she is mad.
We can also use the present continuous form for the condition.
  • If it is not raining, then I am happy.
  • We stay home when it is snowing.
  • If she is working, don't call her.
  • I usually like parties if people are dancing.
  • He doesn't listen when I am talking.
Future Real Conditionals

These conditionals are used to guess what will happen or what might happen in the future. The conditions in these sentences are likely to happen or be true.

If/When + condition + (then) result
Result + if/when + condition

The condition is in the present tense. The result can be in any future form.
  • If I go to the party, I will bring some food.
  • If I have time tomorrow, then I am going to read a book.
  • If I have time next weekend, I might meet my friend.
  • When she gets off work, she is meeting her boyfriend.
  • They will call if they need help.
  • She will help me when I go there.
  • We are going if the weather is nice.
  • I might buy a new car if I get a bonus this year.
Note: For future real conditionals, using "if" means we do not know if something will happen or if it will not happen. Using "when" means we know it will happen, we are just waiting for it to occur.

Past Real Conditionals

Past real conditionals are not used a lot, but we use them when we want to talk about something that happened often in the past.

If/When + condition + (then) result
Result + if/when + condition

The condition is in the past tense. The result is also in the past tense.
  • If I had time when I was young, I used to play basketball.
  • She always brought a book with her when she went anywhere when she was young.
  • If the weather was nice, I always spent my time outside. But now I have a job and I can't spend a lot of time outside.
Note: Sometimes with the past real conditionals, "when" is not used to tell the condition. Sometimes, "when" is just used to tell the period of time like "when I was young...".

We need to use these kinds of sentences a lot, so you should spend some time studying and practicing.

Practice speaking English and improve your English grammar by finishing the sentences below and then practice making your own sentences. It is the best way to learn English and improve your English fluency fast!

I would _______________ if I have time later.
If you work hard, then _______________.
If it rains today, then I will _______________.
If I had time when I was young, I used to like to _______________.
If my friends are busy this weekend, then I might _______________.
I like to buy _______________ when I have a little extra money.
I like to _______________ when _______________.

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