There are four conditional patterns in English. Generally you learn about first and second conditionals at the pre-intermediate level. Sometimes teachers mention the zeroeth conditional. The third conditional is often saved for later because it seems complicated.
With the /'zi roʊθ/ conditional, the condition is purely a logical link, not a temporal one. hehe... not so simple, the zeroeth conditional, huh?. In other words if is equivalent to when or whenever... i.e. (à) chaque fois
- If you snooze, you lose.
- If she doesn't practice, she gets rusty.
Notice that the verbs are conjugated in the standard present tense. (3rd person -s) The present progressive (be + -ing) is not common with the 0th conditional, because the 0th is outside of time.
cf. Si je joue, je gagne.
The first conditional is very common and refers to specific and sometimes unforeseen events, not generalities:
- If you wait here, I'll get the zombies for you.
- If you don't wait here, the zombies'll get you for me.
- Don't worry! They can't hear you or smell you if you stay right there.
Any present tense verb (simple, be + -ing, have + -en) can be used in the if-clause (called the protase).
One of three principal modals (can, may, will) is used in the other clause (called the apodose).
This is very similar to French. (Si je joue, je gagnerai)
- If you're coming to the dinner tonight, he may be there.
- I'll take the newspaper if you've finished with it.
Some liberty is allowed beyond those three modals of course:
- If you wait here, the zombies should be along shortly.
- You might want to wait to buy it, if you think you can get a better deal elsewhere.
- You could wait to change cars, if you think the price will come down.
- You really must go to Vienne or Nîmes, if you want to see some cool Roman relics.
The second conditional is counter-intuitive because you use the past to speak about a potential future:
- If she had a million dollars, she wouldn't buy a yacht.
- She might be more tempted, if she had a hundred million dollars.
- You could make bills, if you had a better-paying job.
si je jouais, je gagnerais