Grammar explains the way that words are organized into sentences.
Not all English sentences follow grammar “rules.” However, there are sentence structures you can learn that make it easier for you to express your thoughts and feel more confident speaking English. Conditional sentences are one of these structures.
A sentence structure is a specific order of words that native speakers recognize and understand as correct.
What is a conditional sentence in English?
In English, conditional is not a tense. It is a sentence structure. It is a way of organizing words in a sentence.
A condition is something that you must do, or a situation that must exist, in order for something else to happen. It is something that must happen before a 2nd thing happens.
Conditional is the adjective form of condition. It means that something is necessary, or something must be true, or something must happen, before another thing can happen.
Conditional is a name used in English grammar textbooks for a group of sentence structures that contain the conjunction if.
A conditional sentence is used in English to talk about a result that may happen only if a condition happens first.
IMPORTANT: Not all sentences that contain the word if are conditional sentences. If is a conjunction. It can be used in other sentences the same way as any conjunction.
What is the if-clause?
Conditional sentences are examples of complex sentences. A complex sentence has two parts. These two parts are called clauses. A clause is any part of a sentence with a subject and a verb. (A sentence consists of one or more clauses.)
The two clauses in a complex sentence are the main clause (also called the independent clause), and the dependent clause (also called the subordinate clause).
If is a conjunction. A conjunction joins two clauses or sentences together into one longer sentence.
The if-clause is one part of a conditional sentence. It is also called the condition clause. It defines the event or situation that must happen or must be true.
The if-clause is a dependent clause. It is not a complete sentence by itself. It must be used as part of a longer sentence with another clause. It is dependent on the other part of the conditional sentence.
What is the result-clause?
The second part of a conditional sentence is the result- or main-clause. This is what happens after the event in the if-clause occurs. It is also an independent clause. It is a complete sentence by itself.
REMEMBER: When the if-clause is at the beginning of a sentence, use a comma to separate the if-clause and the result-clause. When the result-clause is first, you don’t need to use a comma.
Why are conditional sentences so important?
Conditional sentences are taught in English classes and in English textbooks because they are easy teach. “Rules” are always easy to teach, and they are easy to mark right or wrong on a test.
It’s important to remember that conditional sentences are just one category of sentences in English.
However, each of the conditional sentence structures is used in a variety of situations, and that’s why they are important.
There are four different conditional sentence structures:
- factual conditional (zero conditional)
- possible conditional (1st first conditional)
- present unreal conditional (2nd conditional)
- past unreal conditional (3rd conditional)
It’s a waste of time to try and remember every single grammar “rule.” What’s important is learning when to use these sentences.
You don’t have to make up your own conditional sentences. You don’t have to guess when you use a conditional sentence.
Want more lessons on conditional sentences? Click on the links above, or click on the red conditionals link below where it says Tagged With