Conditional Sentence – Definition and Examples


The depth of the English language can be quite complicated for us to explore. While we’re all accustomed to learning the basics about declarative sentences, interrogative sentences, imperative sentences, and exclamatory sentences during our early years in school, there is a wide variety of sentence types that aren’t given much importance, one of which includes conditional sentences.

While most of us would rather play it safe by applying our standard learning of sentence construction into both spoken and written English, there are many reasons why learning about conditional sentences and the like can help us grow as individuals. For one, expanding our knowledge in such can help us refine our grammar. This makes it easier for our audience to understand the message we wish to get across. In doing so, it paves the way for better and clearer communication. You may also see compound sentences.

What is a Conditional Sentence?

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A conditional sentence is a type of sentence that expresses a condition along with its proposed outcome. In simple terms, it shows a situation in a cause-and-effect manner. Conditional sentences help us state our opinions or sentiments on things that could have happened, could still happen or what we wish would happen in particular circumstances. There are two parts of a conditional sentence: the conditional clause or the dependent clause and the main or independent clause. You may also see short sentences.


You can go to the party if you finish your homework.

In this sentence, “You can go to the party” is the independent clause, while “if you finish your homework” is the dependent clause. Without adding the dependent clause to the sentence, the independent clause may still convey a complete thought, but cannot be categorized as a conditional sentence anymore. Keep in mind that a conditional sentence may also be made up of a single conditional clause followed by multiple independent clauses and vice versa such as the examples given below:

While most conditional sentences are constructed with “if” or “unless”, there are instances when conditional clauses do not make use of conjunctions. Instead, these clauses may begin with one of the following words: were, should or had.

Let’s take these for example:

Conditional sentences often discuss real situations or hypothetical factors and their respective consequences. Without the presence of either the dependent clause or the independent clause, it would be difficult for the reader or listener to understand the message of the writer or speaker. You may also see negative sentences.

Types of Conditional Sentences

There are four basic types of conditional sentences in the English language. Each type is categorized based on how “real” or “imagined” a situation may be. However, these may vary depending on their likeliness of occurring. You may also see Parallel sentences.

1. Zero Conditional (True)

Zero conditionals are also referred to as real conditionals, as this type of sentences portrays true statements that do occur or will occur in certain circumstances.


2. First Conditional (Likely)

Unlike real conditionals, imagined conditional sentences talk about hypothetical conditions that are either possible or impossible. These conditionals are arranged according to their level of possibility, with first conditionals being the most basic. You may also see run on sentences.

First conditional sentences are used to express an idea that may likely happen without complete certainty. These sentences can refer to either present or future time, depending on the situation given.


3. Second Conditional (Less Likely)

These sentences indicate outcomes that could take place in the present or future if specific conditions prevail. This typically reflects scenarios of an “if this had happened, this could have happened” nature. You may also exclamatory sentence.


4. Third Conditional (Impossible)

A third conditional sentence explains an imagined result based on a past idea that did not take place. In other words, it poses to be unreal because of how impossible it is for us to change the past.


As you can see, the examples show what would have transpired if something was done differently. The dependent clause begins with “if” and uses the past perfect tense, while the independent clause uses the modal auxiliary (would, could, should, etc.) plus “have” followed by the past participle of the verb.

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When it comes to constructing conditional sentences, whether it is of the zero, first, second or third conditional, it is important to observe the proper use of verb tenses for each type. You must also take note of the proper placement of punctuation, in which a comma must be used after the if-clause if it is followed by the main clause of the conditional statement. On the other hand, if the independent clause precedes the if-clause, then a punctuation is no longer necessary. Despite the complex nature of these sentences, constructing a conditional sentence is not as difficult if you just learn how to mix together past, present, and future tenses accordingly to convey a logical or otherwise implied statement. You may also see sentence fragment.

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