What is First Conditional in English?

Lesson 6.2 First Conditional

What is First Conditional in English?

First conditional in a nutshell:

6.2.1  First conditional is a grammatical structure in English that predicts the likely result if a particular condition is met. For example:

If I miss the bus, I will be late for work.

First conditional is also known as ‘the will condition’, ‘conditional type 1’, or ‘type 1 conditional’.

6.2.2  We use first conditional to predict a likely result in the future – something that we know is possible and will probably happen, given the condition. For example:

If I’m late for work, my boss will be angry.

The speaker cannot predict the future with 100% accuracy – their boss may not even be at work due to a meeting or holiday – but they make the statement because of their knowledge of their boss’s likely reaction, which may be based on previous experience.

6.2.3  We use first conditional to talk about matters that are practical, real, and pressing in the near future, rather than hypothetical events in the far distant future. For example:

  • what to take:  If it rains I’ll take an umbrella.
  • what time to leave:  If we leave at eight, we’ll get there before eleven.
  • dealing with people:  If your parents come for lunch, I’ll make a lasagne.
  • dealing with money:  If my boss is angry, I won’t get a pay rise.

and so on. Since the future in general is an imaginary construct that only exists in our minds, the result of the condition is imaginary, but we consider it to be likely due to our previous experience, knowledge, and general logic. For example:

If it rains I’ll take an umbrella.

The condition – ‘if it rains’ – is hypothetical, because we cannot predict the future with 100% accuracy, but we may have seen or heard a weather report predicting rain imminently, or it may be the rainy season, or one of several days when it has rained ‘on and off’. We suggest taking an umbrella because the condition is likely.

We often use first conditional to express the following functions, among many others:

6.2.4  A first conditional sentence has two clauses (parts):

If clause:                         Main clause:

If I don’t cook a meal, I will (I’ll) order a pizza.

We can swap the order around and the meaning does not change:

Main clause:                    If clause:

I will (I’ll) order a pizza if I don’t cook a meal.

In spoken English – using connected speech – we usually use the contraction of subject + will – e.g. I’ll, you’ll, they’ll, etc. – automatically. This applies even with names, or places, for example:

Jim’ll be really upset if we don’t get him a birthday present.

If we don’t get a move on, the library’ll be closed!

In general we separate the clauses with a comma , when the if clause comes first, unless the sentence is very short, as above:

If it rains I’ll take an umbrella.

When the main clause comes first we don’t generally need a comma:

The library’ll be closed if we don’t get a move on.

In the if clause we use present simple and in the main clause we use will + infinitive (future simple). We never use ‘will’ in the if clause, although many students like to try:

If I will need your help, I’ll call you.

6.2.5  We can use other present tense modal verbs in the main clause. While ‘will’ usually means that the speaker’s intention is to do the action in the future, other modal verbs change the speakers intention:

For more on modal verbs, click here.

Another option is to use imperative form in the main clause:

If you don’t like my cooking, go to a restaurant!

For more examples, see Ex. 6.2.8 and Ex. 6.2.9 below.

6.2.6  We can make either or both clauses negative:

Positive (both clauses): If I get up early, I will do the washing.

Negative (if clause only): If I do not (don’t) get up early, I will do the washing.

Negative (main clause only): If I get up early, I will not (won’t) do the washing.

Negative (both clauses): If I do not (don’t) get up early, I will not (won’t) do the washing.

In this sentence, it would make more sense if both clauses are negative, but all three negative sentences are possible in the right context.

For more on using present simple and present continuous, click here.

For more on using future simple and future continuous, click here.

6.2.7  We make a wh question with the main clause of the sentence. It is not possible to form a question with the if clause:

Example 1:   If I get up early, I will do the washing.

What:   What will you do, if you get up early? / The washing.

What:   What will happen if you get up early? / I will do the washing.

Example 2:   If we have some time off, we will go to Portsmouth.

Where:   Where will we go, if we have some time off? / (To) Portsmouth.

When:   When will we go to Portsmouth? / If we have some time off.

For more on forming wh questions, click here.

6.2.8  We can also make a yes / no question with the main clause of the sentence:

Example 1:   If I get up early, I will do the washing.

Positive:   Will you do the washing, if you get up early? / Yes, I will. or No, I won’t.

Negative:   Will you do the washing, if you don’t get up early? / No, I won’t. or Yes, I will.

Example 2:   If we have some time off, we will go to Portsmouth.

Positive:   Will you go to Portsmouth, if you have some time off? / Yes, we will. or No, we won’t.

Negative:   Will you go to Portsmouth, if you don’t have any time off? / No, we won’t. or Yes, we will.

For more on forming yes / no questions, click here.

6.2.9  While the ‘classic’ first conditional structure is the conjunction if + present simple / will + infinitive, we can also use other conjunctions to form similar conditional sentences, although each brings a different focus:

6.2.10  First conditional contrasts nicely with second conditional in terms of structure and time:

Optimists use first conditional more: “If I get a pay rise, I’ll…” while pessimists use second conditional more: “If I got a pay rise, I’d…” The difference is in the outlook – how likely or unlikely the situation appears to be in the mind of the speaker.

6.2.11  It can help (as an aide memoire) to think of the four conditionals in English as a family, called The Conditional Family. This enables us to understand the different mood of each conditional and learn when to use them:

 

Unlike the daydreaming teenager Becca Conditional (second conditional), Ferne Conditional (first conditional), the mum of the family, is practical, realistic, and focused on the everyday (and often pressing) needs of her family in the real world, in the immediate and probably short-term future. Real future – not hypothetical, like second conditional. This analogy of the family may be helpful because it shows the kind of situations and concerns with which you can use each conditional.

For more on The Conditional Family – including free printable worksheets – click here.

Exercises:

[Click here to download the full answer pack]

Ex. 6.2.1 Error Correction  Which sentence is correct in each group?

1. a) I will help you if I had time.
b) I will help you if I have time.
c) I will you help if I have time.
d) You will help me, if I have time.

2. a) If you feed the cat, he will be hungry.
b)If you don’t feed the cat, he might have been hungry.
c) If you fed the cat, he would be hungry.
d) If you don’t feed the cat, he will be hungry.

3. a) I’ll pay the bill when I get it.
b) I’ll get the bill when I pay it.
c) I pay the bill when I get it.
d) I’ll pay the bill if I got it.

4. a) If she leaves now, she gets to work at eight.
b) She’ll get to work at eight unless she leaves now.
c) She’ll get to work at eight if she leaves now.
d) If she leave now, she’ll get to work at eight.

5. a) If he has time, Peter will help you paint fence.
b) Peter will help you paint the fence if he have time.
c) Peter help you paint the fence if he has time.
d) Peter’ll help you paint the fence if he has time.

6. a) If I’m going to Ben’s party I let you know.
b) I’ll let you know if I’m going to Ben’s party.
c) I will let you know if I going to Ben’s party.
d) If I’m going to Ben’s party I will you let know.

Ex. 6.2.2 Comprehension  Select the best word:

  1. If I get a promotion,  a) I can,  b) I’ll,  c) I should   open the champagne.
  1. a) Unless, b) Is,  c) If   Terry scores a goal, we’ll win the match.
  1. I’ll let you know if I’m  a) going to,  b) will,  c) might have   be late.
  1. If the internet  a) keep,  b) keeping,  c) keeps   going down, I’ll call an engineer.
  1. I’m  a) will,  b) going to,  c) gonna to   switch providers if our gas bill goes up again.
  1. He  a) won’t,  b) want,  c) will no   have any biscuits if you eat them all!
  1. Barry’ll walk to work if his car  a) is,  b) isn’t,  c) be   fixed by Monday.
  1. a) As long as, b) So long,  c) Provided than   we finish early we can walk to the beach and have lunch.
  1. I will attend the annual dinner  a) on conditions that,  b) on condition that,  c) oncondition that   the Mayor is not there.
  1. [At the fish and chip shop:] If you want cod, a) I will,  b) it won’t,  c) it’ll   be ready in five minutes.

Ex. 6.2.3 Functions  Match the sentences to the functions:

Ex. 6.2.4 Writing Write a main clause with an appropriate result:

a) If I need more money, ______________________________________________________
b) ______________________________________________________ if the car won’t start.
c) If the wedding is cancelled, ______________________________________________________
d) ______________________________________________________ if we can’t find the restaurant.
e) If the second episode doesn’t download, __________________________________________________
f) If my granny bakes a cake, ______________________________________________________
g) ______________________________________________________ if you don’t need me on Monday.
h) If there’s no fruit left, ______________________________________________________
i) ______________________________________________________ if you finish your duties early.
j) If the match ends in a draw, ______________________________________________________

Ex. 6.2.5 Writing  Write an appropriate if clause for each sentence:

a) ______________________________________________________, I’ll get the sack.
b) ______________________________________________________, I will get to work on time.
c) ______________________________________________________, I’ll tell mum.
d) We can go to the supermarket ______________________________________________________.
e) The remote control won’t work ______________________________________________________.
f) ______________________________________________________, I’ll receive it on Tuesday.
g) ______________________________________________________, they’ll finish at about nine.
h) I might be able to attend the meeting _____________________________________________________.
i) I won’t be able to attend the meeting _____________________________________________________.
j) ______________________________________________________, I’ll buy you a new skateboard.

Ex. 6.2.6 Gap fill  a) Complete each gap using one of the following verbs:

Ferne Conditional (42) Mother and office manager; focused on the short-term real future. She is:

Practical:

If you want to 1.__________ a sandwich for lunch, I’ll give you a fiver.
If we 2.__________ online, we’ll 3.__________ time at the airport.
If you 4._______ the grass this morning, I’ll 5._______ the garden table and chairs.

Caring:

If I don’t iron your shirt, you’ll 6.__________ really scruffy.
If you 7.__________ to watch the match, I’ll 8.__________ my film upstairs.
If you 9._______ any help, you should 10._______ me on my work phone.

Nagging:

If you don’t 11.__________ for your exams, you won’t get good marks.
I will be very cross if you 12.__________ home later than eleven o’clock!
If you don’t 13.__________ your dirty clothes in the washing bin, I won’t be able to 14.__________ them.

Organising:

If the weather is nice tomorrow, we’ll 15.__________ to the beach.
If the bus is late, I’ll 16.__________ you in town next to the post office.
I’ll 17._______ my brother if the plumber can’t 18._______ the sink.

Realistic:

If you don’t 19.__________, you’ll miss your bus!
We won’t 20._______ the car if we don’t 21._______ in the paper.
If we don’t 22._______ this bill on time, they will 23._______ the gas!

b) Write five first conditional sentences as Ferne Conditional using each mood:

1. Practical: ___________________________________________________________________________

2. Caring: ___________________________________________________________________________

3. Nagging: ___________________________________________________________________________

4. Organising: ___________________________________________________________________________

5. Realistic: ___________________________________________________________________________

Ex. 6.2.7 Regular or Irregular Verbs  Complete each sentence using either a regular [ R ] or irregular [ I ] main verb:

1. If I miss the train, [ R ] ______________________
2. [ I ] ______________________ if I don’t find a parking space.
3. If my teacher is in a bad mood, [ R ] ______________________
4. [ I ] ______________________ if mum cooks my favourite dinner.
5. [ R ] ______________________ if I don’t make the team this time.
6. If I meet my manager, [ I ] ______________________
7. If the printer isn’t working, [ R ] ______________________
8. If the club is too hot, [ I ] ______________________
9. [ R ] ______________________ if my brother calls.
10. If the plumber doesn’t come soon, [ I ] ______________________

Ex. 6.2.8 Match the Clauses 1  Copy the image onto card. It shows fifteen sentences that use a conditional clause. Cut up the cards and get your students to match up both parts of each
sentence correctly. You could also show only one half of each sentence and elicit
ideas on how to complete the sentences:

First Conditional - Match the Clauses 1

First Conditional – Match the Clauses 1

Ex. 6.2.9 Match the Clauses 2  Copy the image onto card. It shows fifteen sentences that use a conditional clause. Cut up the cards and get your students to match up both parts of each
sentence correctly. You could also show only one half of each sentence and elicit
ideas on how to complete the sentences:

First Conditional - Match the Clauses 2

First Conditional – Match the Clauses 2

Ex. 6.2.10 Sentence Blocks  Practice making sentence blocks using first conditional. For answers, see each individual book. To find out more about sentence blocks, click here.

Sentence blocks from Talk a Lot Elementary Book 1:

Direct download: https://purlandtraining.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/sentence-blocks-tale-1.pdf

Sentence blocks from Talk a Lot Elementary Book 1

Sentence blocks from Talk a Lot Elementary Book 2:

Direct download: https://purlandtraining.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/sentence-blocks-tale-2.pdf

Sentence blocks from Talk a Lot Elementary Book 2

Sentence blocks from Talk a Lot Elementary Book 3:

Direct download: https://purlandtraining.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/sentence-blocks-tale-3.pdf

Sentence blocks from Talk a Lot Elementary Book 3

[Click here to download the full answer pack]


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