Conditional clauses contain the word “if” or “unless”. They are called so because a certain condition is supposed or imagined to be fulfilled in order for an action to take place.
We have three if clauses: If 1 (first conditional), If 2 (second conditional) and If 3 (third conditional).
First conditional (IF 1)
- We use If 1 for future possibilities.
|If + simple present + simple future|
If I get all vaccinations, I will be healthy.
If clause main clause
Mother will punish us if we do not complete the work.
main clause If clause
If he gets money, he will buy a radio
Simple present simple future
We shall go there if Juma comes.
simple future simple present
- We also use this form of condition for facts and general truths.
|If + simple present + simple present|
–If you heat metals, they expand
Simple present simple present
– If I have a bad dream, I experience the opposite of it.
-If you uproot a plant, it dries up.
Second conditional (IF 2)
In If 2, a person is just imagining what would happen if the impossible came true. In If 2, the condition cannot be fulfilled at all. Simply, it is impossible.
|If + simple past + would + verb|
-If I was God, I would leave man to live forever.
-If I were you, I wouldn’t eat posho.
-He would bite all sinners if he were/was a snake.
-Who would she ask if she needed help?
Note: We often use “were” instead of “was” in order to put more emphasis on the nature of the impossibility.
Third conditional (IF 3)
In If 3, a person is just imagining what would have happened if a certain condition had been fulfilled. In If 3, the condition can’t be fulfilled at all. Simply, it is also impossible.
|If + past perfect + would have + past participle|
– If I had gone to Kigali, I would have visited Kigali Convention Centre.
-She would have reported if she had seen me.
–If they had kept quiet, the killer would not have found them.
Note: “Had” can be used to begin an If (3) when the “if” is left out.
Had I studied, I would have won the exam. = If I had studied, I would have won the exam.