The Basics: What Are If Sentences?:
If sentences are used to discuss things that happen based on the condition that something else happens. There are three main types of if sentences.
Use an if sentence in the first conditional to consider real, possible events in the present or future:
If it rains, I'll take an umbrella.
Use an if sentences in the second conditional to speculate about unreal, improbable events in the present moment or future:
If I had a million dollars, I'd buy a big house.
An if sentence in the third conditional concerns imaginary (unreal) outcomes of past events:
If he had spent more time studying, he would have passed the exam.
If Sentence Forms Overview:
If Sentence # 1 = First Conditional
If + S + present simple + objects, S + will + verb + objects
-> If the boys finish their homework early, they will play baseball.
If Sentence # 2 = Second Conditional
If + S + past simple + objects, S + would + verb + objects
-> If he bought a new car, he would buy a Ford.
If Sentence # 3 = Third Conditional
If + S + past perfect + objects, S + would have + past participle + objects
-> If she had seen him, she would have discussed the issues with him.
Study If Sentences In Depth:
Here is a detailed guide to all conditional forms with examples, important exceptions to the rules and a structure guide. The alternate guide provides options for advanced level learners. Finally, this guide to choosing between the first or second conditional provides further help on deciding whether to use the real or unreal conditional.
Test Your Understanding of If Sentences:
Once you've studied the rules - or if you already know the rules - test your knowledge:
For advanced level learners here is a reading dialogue comprehension exercise that focuses on using the third conditional.
Teach a Lesson about If Sentences:
This first and second conditional forms lesson employs reading comprehension about emergencies to help students discover and review the forms. Once students are comfortable with the form, they discuss other difficult or unusual situations using the first and second conditional
This conditionals tic-tac-toe is a great game to help students review all three if sentence forms.
Finally, here is a printable conditional form quiz to use in class.