What is a Conditional Sentence? Definition, Examples

Conditional sentence definition: A conditional sentence is a type of sentence that states a condition and the outcome of that condition occurring. Conditional sentences are made up of a dependent clause and an independent clause joined to express said condition.

What is a Conditional Sentence?

A conditional sentence is a sentence that expresses a condition. A condition is something that can only happen IF something else occurs.

A conditional sentence contains an independent clause and a dependent clause that almost always begins with “if.” A conditional sentence is only a conditional sentence if it has both of these parts.

Some conditional clauses might begin with “when.”

Conditional Sentence Examples

  • Conditional clause definition If I save enough, I can go on vacation.
    • The dependent clause is “If I save enough.”
    • The independent clause is “I can go on vacation.”
  • You can have dessert if you finish your homework.
    • The dependent clause is “if you finish your homework.”
    • The independent clause is “you can have dessert.”

Types of Conditional Sentences

There are few different kinds of conditional sentences in English. Here is a brief outline of each kind.

Zero Conditional

Conditional mood definition What is a zero conditional sentence? A zero conditional sentence is a sentence that expresses a fact or simple implication.

The dependent clause of the zero conditional begins with “if” or “when.” The independent clause of the zero conditional begins with the simple present verb tense or the imperative verb tense.

Zero conditional statements express conditions that are always true and the conclusions of which can be drawn from their premises.

Examples of zero conditional:

  • If it rains, things get wet.
  • If you stare at the sun, your eyes damage.
  • If you touch a flame, you burn yourself.

First Conditional

Conditional phrases definition What is a first conditional sentence? A first conditional sentence is a sentence that expresses an idea that might happen at some point in the future. It is something that is possible, but its certainty is unknown because it depends on another event.

The dependent clause of the first conditional begins with “if” and uses the simple present tense. The independent clause of the first conditional uses “will” plus the base form of a verb.

Examples of first conditional:

  • If it rains, I will not play outside.
  • If I am out to lunch, Maria will answer calls.
  • I will wrap his present if he leaves.

First conditional sentences can refer to either present of future time.

Second Conditional

Conditional clauses in English grammar What is a second conditional sentence? A second conditional sentence is a sentence that can express two ideas.

First, it might express things in the future that are unlikely to happen. Second, it is used to express an idea that is not true because it is impossible.

The dependent clause of the second conditional begins with “if” and uses the past simple tense. The independent clause of the second conditional uses “would” plus the base form of a verb.

Examples of second conditional:

  • If I knew the answer, I would tell you.
  • If I were you, I would not leave tonight.
  • If I were president, I would fix the system.

Second conditional sentences refer to the present time.

Third Conditional

Would in conditional sentences What is a third conditional sentence? A third conditional sentence expresses a past idea that did not occur. The third conditional sentence expresses an imagined result of that past event that did not occur. In other words, it is unreal.

The dependent clause of the third conditional begins with “if” and uses the past perfect tense. The independent clause of the third conditional uses “would” have plus the past participle of a verb.

Examples of third conditional:

  • If I had listened, I would have not gotten lost.
  • If he had gone to lunch, you would have answered his calls.
  • I would have wrapped his present if he had left.

Third conditional sentences refer to the past.

Punctuating Conditional Sentences

Type 2 conditional sentences Conditional sentences are fairly easy to identify because they almost always begin with “if.” They might also begin with “when,” “provided that,” “given that,” or “considering.”

Just like other sentence in English, a conditional sentence only requires a comma after the dependent clause when the dependent clause is placed before the independent clause.

Examples:

  • If the baby wakes, I will be frustrated.
  • If you go outside, you can see the storm clouds.
  • When you finish your dinner, you will clean your plate.

This is similar to most English phrases.

For example,

  • After Johnny hit the ball, he ran to first base.

If the dependent clause is after the independent clause, no comma is necessary.

Examples:

  • I will be frustrated if the baby wakes.
  • You can see the storm clouds if you go outside.
  • You will clean your plate when you finish your dinner.

Again, this is similar to most English phrases.

For example,

  • Johnny ran to first base after he hit the ball.

Summary: What Are Conditional Sentences?

Define conditional sentence: the definition of conditional sentence is a sentence type that expresses a condition and the outcome of the condition.

In summary, a conditional sentence:

  • usually begins with “if”
  • includes a dependent and independent clause
  • comes in different forms including zero, first, second, and third