TOEFL IBT – Conditionals

Conditionals are used to speculate about what could happen, what might have happened, or what we wish would happen. Many conditionals in English use the word if. There are five different ways of constructing conditionals in English.

Examples

The zero conditional is used to refer to general truths. The tense on both sides of the sentence is the simple present. In these sentences, the word “when” can replace “if” without a problem.

If + simple present

simple present

If ice gets hot

it melts.

If it rains

the ground gets wet.

The type 1 conditional is used to refer to the present or future with a real situation. It refers to a possible condition and its probable result. The first clause is the simple present, and the second is the simple future.

If + simple present

simple future

If you are late

you will miss your plane.

If you do not use sunscreen

you will get a sunburn.

The type 2 conditional is used to refer to a time that could be now, and a situation that is unreal. It refers to a hypothetical situation and its probable result. The first clause is the simple past, and the second clause is the present conditional.

If + simple past

present conditional or present progressive conditional

If you got home earlier

you would not be so tired.

If I spoke German

I would be working in Germany.

The type 3 conditional is used to refer to a time that is in the past, and a situation that could have happened. It refers to an unreal past situation and its probable result in the past. The first clause is the past perfect, and the second is the perfect conditional.

If + past perfect

perfect conditional or perfect progressive conditional

If I had attended this college

I would have had a better education.

If you had accepted that promotion

you would have been making more money.

The mixed type conditional is used to refer to a time in the past, and a situation that is continuing into the present. It refers to an unreal past situation and its probable outcome in the present. The first clause is the past perfect, and the second is the present conditional.

If + past perfect or simple past

present conditional or perfect conditional

If you weren’t allergic to dogs

you would have gotten one.

If we had used a map

we wouldn’t be lost right now.

Tips:

  • If necessary, you can replace “if” with “unless” without changing the meaning.
  • If the condition comes first (the “if” clause), a comma is usually used.
    • If I am sick, I need to stay home from work.

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