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If Dan hadn't been born a boy, he'd be a girl. Join us for 90 seconds for more sentences like this and a review of conditional sentences in English. And find out what Dan would buy his mum if he won a million dollars.

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English Class

What would Dan buy his mum if he won $1m? A review of conditionals

Dan's mum likes animals. That's why he'd buy her a horse if he won a lot of money. That's a conditional sentence - but do you know which type? 

If you've forgotten, don't worry - Dan's here with a 90-second review.

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Hi Guys! Dan for BBC Learning English here. This time we're going to talk about conditionals. Now many of you may know that conditionals are sentences which commonly but not always begin with if in English. We have five of them and they usually talk about cause and effect. Either now or in the future or in the past. We're gonna have a look at all of them today.  Are you ready? Here we go.

If it rains, we get wet. This is an example of a zero conditional. Zeros have no maybes or possibilities in them. They talk about cause and result: If it rains, we get wet. You'll notice that they use the present on both sides but past forms are also possible. For example, If it rained, we stayed inside.

First conditionals are a little bit more tricky. First conditionals talk about a possible, real future or present outcome. For example, If I leave now, I'll get home early. They use present tense on the If side and they use will + the infinitive on the main clause.

Second conditionals. If I had a million dollars, I would buy my mum a horse. That's a second conditional. It talks about a highly unlikely or most likely impossible outcome of a present or future situation. Second conditionals are really confusing because we use past tense verbs on the 'If' clause but actually we're talking in the present tense. If I had a million, I would buy. Notice that the main clause uses would plus the infinitive. Got it? Good.

Third conditionals. Third conditionals are always impossible because we cannot travel back in time… yet… Anyway, so… If I hadn't drunk so much, I wouldn't have been arrested. On the 'If' clause we use the past perfect – 'If I hadn't drunk' – and in the main clause we have would + have + the past participle. This usually is used for past mistakes.

Finally, we have mixed conditionals. For example, If I hadn’t been born a boy, I would be a girl! Anyway, that's where we take half of one conditional and half of another conditional and mix them together – usually third to second.

For more information, you can check on our website at bbclearningenglish.com

I’ve been Dan, you’ve been great. Get out of here! Bye.

Summary

Conditional sentences express a connection between two actions or states. One thing happens because of another. These connections can be general, specific, likely, unlikely, real or imagined.

Zero conditionals
Used to refer to general truths, scientific facts and the predictable results of particular actions. 

  • If you heat water enough, it boils.

Form
If clause:
if/when + present simple

Result clause:
present simple

First conditionals 
Used when we want to talk about something that is likely to happen in the future after a specific set of circumstances, the condition.

  • If I go to the shops, I’ll get some bread. (I might not go to the shops)

Form
If clause:
if/when + present simple

Result clause:
will / 'll + infinitive without to / imperative

Second conditionals 
Refer to an imagined present result of an unlikely or impossible present condition.

  • If I had the money, I’d travel around the world. (I don’t have the money)

Form
If clause:
if + past simple (exception: verb 'to be' takes 'were' in 1st and 2nd person)

Result clause:
would / 'd + infinitive without to

Third conditionals
Refer to an imagined past result of something that didn’t happen in the past. 

  • If I had known you were coming, I wouldn’t have prepared the cheese dish. (I didn’t know you were coming. I prepared a cheese dish.)

Form
If clause:
if + past perfect

Main clause: 
would / 'd + have / 've + past participle

Mixed conditionals

Mixed conditionals combine the structure of type 2 and type 3 conditionals when the time (past, present and future) referred to in the if and result clauses are not the same.

  • If you hadn't left the map at home, we wouldn't be lost. (You left the map at home in the past. We are lost now.)

Form
If clause:
if + past perfect

Result clause:
would / 'd + infinitive without to

What type of conditional?

5 Questions

Read the sentence and decide what type of conditional it is.

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x / y

End of Session 1

That's it for this session. What would you buy your mum if you won $1m? Don't forget, if you study hard, you can definitely improve your English! 

Next

Join us for News Review as we discuss a major story in the news, and the language you need to understand it.

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  • Zero conditionals
    Used to refer to general truths
    If you heat water enough, it boils
    if/when+present simple+present simple

    First conditionals 
    Used to talk about something that is likely to happen in the future
    If I go to the shops, I’ll get some bread 
    if/when+present simple+will+ infinitive without to/imperative

    Second conditionals 
    Imagined present result of an unlikely or impossible present condition
    If I had the money, I’d travel around the world
    if+past simple+would+infinitive without to

    Third conditionals
    Imagined past result of something that didn’t happen in the past 
    If I had known you were coming, I wouldn’t have prepared the cheese dish 
    if+past perfect+would+have+past participle

    Mixed conditionals
    Combine the structure of type 2 and type 3 conditionals
    If you hadn't left the map at home, we wouldn't be lost. 
    if+past perfect+would+infinitive without to