If Conditional in IELTS

Conditional structures are used to talk about a condition, especially in result, consequence, problem,… and solution. Conditionals are complex sentences, which consist of an if-clause, followed by a main clause. This gives examiner an impression that you can use complex sentence structure in your answers.

This grammatical structure is not used much in task 1.

Conditional sentence typeUsageIf clause verb tenseMain clause verb tense
ZeroGeneral truthsSimple presentSimple present
Type 1A possible condition and its probable resultSimple presentSimple future
Type 2A hypothetical condition and its probable resultSimple pastPresent conditional or Present continuous conditional
Type 3An unreal past condition and its probable result in the pastPast perfectPerfect conditional
Mixed typeAn unreal past condition and its probable result in the presentPast perfectPresent contditional

THE ZERO CONDITIONAL

The zero conditional is used for when the time being referred to is now or always and the situation is real and possible. The zero conditional is often used to refer to general truths. The tense in both parts of the sentence is the simple present. In zero conditional sentences, the word “if” can usually be replaced by the word “when” without changing the meaning.

If clauseMain clause
If + simple presentsimple present
If this thing happensthat thing happens.
If you heat iceit melts.
If it rainsthe grass gets wet.

Function:-

The zero conditional is used to make statements about the real world, and often refers to general truths, such as scientific facts. In these sentences, the time is now or always and the situation is real and possible.

EXAMPLES

  • If you freeze water, it becomes a solid.
  • Plants die if they don’t get enough water.
  • If my husband has a cold, I usually catch it.
  • If public transport is efficient, people stop using their cars.
  • If you mix red and blue, you get purple.

The zero conditional is also often used to give instructions, using the imperative in the main clause.

EXAMPLES

  • If Bill phones, tell him to meet me at the cinema.
  • Ask Pete if you’re not sure what to do.
  • If you want to come, call me before 5:00.
  • Meet me here if we get separated.

TYPE 1 CONDITIONAL

The type 1 conditional is used to refer to the present or future where the situation is real. The type 1 conditional refers to a possible condition and its probable result. In these sentences the if clause is in the simple present, and the main clause is in the simple future.

If clauseMain clause
If + simple presentsimple future
If this thing happensthat thing will happen.
If you don’t hurryyou will miss the train.
If it rains todayyou will get wet.

FUNCTION

The type 1 conditional refers to a possible condition and its probable result. These sentences are based on facts, and they are used to make statements about the real world, and about particular situations. We often use such sentences to give warnings. In type 1 conditional sentences, the time is the present or future and the situation is real.

EXAMPLES

  • If I have time, I’ll finish that letter.
  • What will you do if you miss the plane?
  • Nobody will notice if you make a mistake.
  • If you drop that glass, it will break.
  • If you don’t drop the gun, I’ll shoot!
  • If you don’t leave, I’ll call the police.

In type 1 conditional sentences, you can also use modals in the main clause instead of the future tense to express the degree of certainty, permission, or a recommendation about the outcome.

EXAMPLES

  • If you drop that glass, it might break.
  • I may finish that letter if I have time.
  • If he calls you, you should go.
  • If you buy my school supplies for me, I will be able to go to the park.

TYPE 2 CONDITIONAL

The type 2 conditional is used to refer to a time that is now or any time, and a situation that is unreal. These sentences are not based on fact. The type 2 conditional is used to refer to a hypothetical condition and its probable result. In type 2 conditional sentences, the if clause uses the simple past, and the main clause uses the present conditional.

If clauseMain clause
If + simple pastpresent conditional or present continuous conditional
If this thing happenedthat thing would happen. (but I’m not sure this thing will happen) OR
that thing would be happening.
If you went to bed earlieryou would not be so tired.
If it rainedyou would get wet.
If I spoke ItalianI would be working in Italy.

FUNCTION

The type 2 conditional refers to an unlikely or hypothetical condition and its probable result. These sentences are not based on the actual situation. In type 2 conditional sentences, the time is now or any time and the situation is hypothetical.

EXAMPLES

  • If the weather wasn’t so bad, we would go to the park. (But the weather is bad so we can’t go.)
  • If I was the Queen of England, I would give everyone a chicken. (But I am not the Queen.)
  • If you really loved me, you would buy me a diamond ring.
  • If I knew where she lived, I would go and see her.

It is correct, and very common, to say “if I were” instead of “if I was” (subjunctive mood).

EXAMPLES

  • If I were taller, I would buy this dress.
  • If I were 20, I would travel the world.
  • If I were you, I would give up smoking.
  • If I were a plant, I would love the rain.

In type 2 conditional sentences, you can also use modals in the main clause instead of “would” to express the degree of certainty, permission, or a recommendation about the outcome.

EXAMPLES

  • We might buy a larger house if we had more money
  • He could go to the concert if you gave him your ticket.
  • If he called me, I couldn’t hear.

THE PRESENT CONDITIONAL TENSE

The present conditional of any verb is composed of two elements:
would + the infinitive of the main verb, without “to”

Subject+ would+ infinitive
HewouldGo
TheywouldStay

TO GO: PRESENT CONDITIONAL

AffirmativeNegativeInterrogativeInterrogative Negative
I would goI wouldn’t goWould I go?Wouldn’t I go?
You would goYou wouldn’t goWould you go?Wouldn’t you go?
He would goHe wouldn’t goWould he go?Wouldn’t he go?
She would goShe wouldn’t goWould she go?Wouldn’t she go?
We would goWe wouldn’t goWould we go?Wouldn’t we go?
They would goThey wouldn’t goWould they go?Wouldn’t they go?

TYPE 3 CONDITIONAL

The type 3 conditional is used to refer to a time that is in the past, and a situation that is contrary to reality. The facts they are based on are the opposite of what is expressed. The type 3 conditional is used to refer to an unreal past condition and its probable past result. In type 3 conditional sentences, the if clause uses the past perfect, and the main clause uses the perfect conditional.

If clauseMain clause
If + past perfectperfect conditional or perfect continuous conditional
If this thing had happenedthat thing would have happened. (but neither of those things really happened) OR
that thing would have been happening.
If you had studied harderyou would have passed the exam.
If it had rainedyou would have gotten wet.
If I had accepted that promotionI would have been working in Milan.

FUNCTION

The type 3 conditional refers to an impossible condition in the past and its probable result in the past. These sentences are truly hypothetical and unreal, because it is now too late for the condition or its result to exist. There is always some implication of regret with type 3 conditional sentences. The reality is the opposite of, or contrary to, what the sentence expresses. In type 3 conditional sentences, the time is the past and the situation is hypothetical.

EXAMPLES
  • If I had worked harder I would have passed the exam. (But I didn’t work hard, and I didn’t pass the exam.)
  • If I had known you were coming I would have baked a cake. (But I didn’t know and I didn’t bake a cake.)
  • I would have been happy if you had called me on my birthday. (But you didn’t call me and I am not happy.)

In type 3 conditional sentences, you can also use modals in the main clause instead of “would” to express the degree of certainty, permission, or a recommendation about the outcome.

EXAMPLES
  • If I had worked harder I might have passed the exam.
  • You could have been on time if you had caught the bus.
  • If he called you, you could go.
  • If you bought my school supplies for me, I might be able to go to the park.
CONTRACTIONS

Both would and had can be contracted to ‘d, which can be confusing if you are not confident with type 3 conditional sentences. Remember 2 rules:
1. would never appears in the if-clause so if ‘d appears in the if clause, it must be abbreviating had.
2. had never appears before have so if ‘d appears on a pronoun just before have, it must be abbreviating would.

EXAMPLES
  • If I’d known you were in hospital, I’d have visited you.
  • If I had known you were in hospital, I would have visited you.
  • I’d have bought you a present if I’d known it was your birthday.
  • I would have bought you a present if I had known it was your birthday.
  • If you’d given me your e-mail, I’d have written to you.
  • If you had given me your e-mail, I would have written to you.

THE PERFECT CONDITIONAL TENSE

The perfect conditional of any verb is composed of three elements:
would + have + past participle
Have followed by the past participle is used in other constructions as well. it is called the “perfect infinitive”.

Subject+ would+ have+ past participle
HeWouldhaveGone
TheyWouldhaveStayed

TO GO: PERFECT CONDITIONAL

AffirmativeNegativeInterrogativeInterrogative Negative
I would have goneI wouldn’t have goneWould I have gone?Wouldn’t I have gone?
You would have goneYou wouldn’t have goneWould you have gone?Wouldn’t you have gone?
He would have goneHe wouldn’t have goneWould he have gone?Wouldn’t he have gone?
She would have goneShe wouldn’t have goneWould she have gone?Wouldn’t she have gone?
We would have goneWe wouldn’t have goneWould we have gone?Wouldn’t we have gone?
They would have goneThey wouldn’t have goneWould they have gone?Wouldn’t they have gone?

MIXED TYPE CONDITIONAL

The mixed type conditional is used to refer to a time that is in the past, and a situation that is ongoing into the present. The facts they are based on are the opposite of what is expressed. The mixed type conditional is used to refer to an unreal past condition and its probable result in the present. In mixed type conditional sentences, the if clause uses the past perfect, and the main clause uses the present conditional.

If clauseMain clause
If + past perfect or simple pastpresent conditional or perfect conditional
If this thing had happenedthat thing would happen. (but this thing didn’t happen so that thing isn’t happening)
If I had worked harder at schoolI would have a better job now.
If we had looked at the mapwe wouldn’t be lost.
If you weren’t afraid of spidersyou would have picked it up and put it outside.

FUNCTION

This type of mixed conditional refers to an unreal past condition and its probable result in the present. These sentences express a situation which is contrary to reality both in the past and in the present. In these mixed conditional sentences, the time is the past in the “if” clause and in the presentin the main clause.

EXAMPLES

  • If I had studied I would have my driving license. (but I didn’t study and now I don’t have my license)
  • I would be a millionaire now if I had taken that job. (but I didn’t take the job and I’m not a millionaire)
  • If you had spent all your money, you wouldn’t buy this jacket. (but you didn’t spend all your money and now you can buy this jacket)

In these mixed conditional sentences, you can also use modals in the main clause instead of would to express the degree of certainty, permission, or a recommendation about the outcome.

EXAMPLES

  • If you had crashed the car, you might be in trouble.
  • I could be a millionaire now if I had invested in ABC Plumbing.
  • If I had learned to ski, I might be on the slopes right now.

Band 9 task 2 example (Sentence Fragment):-

Turning to possible solutions, an obvious step would be to restore some element of state funding to courses. Although public budgets are under pressure these days, if we took this step it would greatly enhance access to courses for people on lower incomes. A second remedy might be for the Universities to offer shorter courses, or more courses with an element of professionally paid work experience included. If such courses were more available, it would reduce the issue of living expenses to some extent. Finally, students themselves should perhaps be more flexible in their attitude to education, and consider attending University at a later stage, or possibly only when they have accumulated sufficient funds to support themselves.

Band 9 task 1 (GT) example (Sentence Fragment):-

I am terribly sorry about being absent, but unfortunately the appointment was made many months in advance and it is impossible for me to reschedule. If I miss it, my visa will be cancelled and I will be forced to leave the country. I am sure you can understand, therefore, what a crucial meeting this is for me.

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