Conditional Mood

One way that verbs can add emphasis to a sentence is through their use of moods. It refers to the form of a verb that indicates the speaker’s attitude toward the action or state expressed by the verb. Among the five verb moods, the conditional mood explains things that might happen rather than those which actually do.

By understanding the various moods of a verb and the situations in which they are used, we can become more confident in our communication with language. This article explains conditional verb moods and examples and provides exercises to strengthen your knowledge.

What is Conditional Mood in English Grammar?

The conditional mood is a grammatical device used to express a hypothetical situation. It shows a possibility for something to happen if a condition is met. Hence, indicating uncertainty or an outcome that is not definite. It is one of the categories of moods within English grammar.

Examples of Conditional Mood Sentences:

  • If I were a philanthropist, I would give scholarships to students in need.
  • If I were her, I would volunteer at the local animal shelter.
  • If you place an ice cube on a hot surface, it melts.
  • Had the police arrived on time, they would have caught the criminal.
  • When you eat a lot of sugar, you get a stomach ache.
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Conditional Mood Rules

The common verbs used in the conditional mood are “were” and  “would.” However, there are conditional sentences that don’t use those verbs.

The table below shows the rules for using the conditional mood:

Type of Conditional MoodRule or FunctionConditional Clause TenseMain Clause Tense
Zero Conditional– Depicts general truths or guaranteed results.

– Uses “if” or “when” in the conditional clause.
Simple Present Tense
(base form of the verb)
Simple Present Tense
(base form of the verb)
Type 1 Conditional– Shows results or outcomes that are likely to happen in the future.

– Used to describe a certain situation instead of showing guaranteed results.
Simple Present Tense
(base form of the verb)
Simple Future Tense
(will + base form of the verb)
Type 2 Conditional– States outcomes of wishes or unrealistic situations 

– Modal auxiliary verbs could, should, would, and might are used in the main clause.
Simple Past Tense
(base form of the verb + ed)
Present Conditional
(could, should, would, or might + base form of the verb)
Type 3 Conditional– Expresses possible outcomes of a past situation if what happened was different.

– The modal verbs are used in the main clause and not in the conditional clause.
Past Perfect Tense
(had + past participle)
Perfect Conditional
(could, should, would, or might + have + past participle)
Table of Rules for the Conditional Mood
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Examples of Conditional Mood

Here are examples of sentences in different types of conditional mood:

Zero Conditional

Zero conditional sentences show general truths and provide guaranteed outcomes. Its formula is “when or if + simple present tense + simple present tense.”

  • When you place a glass of water in the freezer, it turns into ice.
  • When it rains continuously for weeks, the river overflows.
  • If water undergoes electrolysis, it splits into hydrogen and oxygen.
  • If you don’t eat enough, you feel weak.
  • If you place a magnet near a metal object, it attracts it.

Type 1 Conditional

Type 1 conditional statements are real events that express the possibility of an outcome in the present or future. Its formula is “if + simple present tense + simple future tense.”

  • If you sleep late tonight, you will miss the school bus.
  • If Clara doesn’t go to her doctor’s appointment, she will be in trouble.
  • If he rushes the construction of the house, it will be unsafe.
  • If you stay here all your life, you will never experience the world.
  • If Jim doesn’t budget his salary, he will spend all his money.

Type 2 Conditional

Type 2 conditional sentences describe hypothetical situations or events that are unlikely to happen in the present or future. Its formula is “if + simple past tense + could, should, would, or might + base form of the verb.”

  • If I were Juno, I would accept Paulie’s sincere apology.
  • If I had a million dollars, I could buy a house.
  • If I were in that situation, I should take the opportunity to learn.
  • If I had the chance, I would travel around the world.
  • If he took the job offer, he might live in a different city now.

Type 3 Conditional

Type 3 conditional sentences express hypothetical situations or events that happened in the past. Its formula is “if + past perfect tense + could, should, would, or might + have + past participle.”

  • If I had studied harder for the exam, I could have passed it.
  • If Joey had moved to France, he might have learned French.
  • If Carol had listened to her parents’ advice, she should have gone to college.
  • If the couple had saved their money, they would have bought a car by now.
  • If she had avoided Derick, she might have avoided getting hurt.
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Conditional Mood Exercises with Answers

Rewrite the statements below into sentences in conditional mood.

1. An earthquake occurs when two tectonic plates move against each other.

2. As long as we bring an umbrella, it will not matter if it rains or shines.

3. It is disastrous for the event organizers when the audience does not show up.

4. We can avoid traffic if we leave early.

5. Joan is regretful that she did not reconsider her decision.


1. When two tectonic plates move against each other, an earthquake occurs.

2. If we had brought an umbrella, it would not have mattered if it rained or shined.

3. If the audience did not show up, it would be disastrous for the event organizers.

4. If we had left early, we could have avoided the traffic.

5. If Joan had reconsidered her decision, she would not be regretful.

Auxiliary Verbs in Conditional Mood List

  • were – conditional clause
  • had – conditional clause
  • could – main clause
  • should – main clause
  • would – main clause
  • might – main clause
  • have – main clause
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Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners

English grammar, like any language, is a complex subject to study. Understanding and applying grammar rules can be challenging, especially for English language learners. However, your success in learning the language is dependent on your learning plan.

First, know that there are different levels of language proficiency. Knowing your status allows you to align it with your study materials and learning strategy. To keep your motivation, select beginner-friendly materials instead of university textbooks when starting. In doing so, you will feel less intimidated by the topics you should learn.

Second, focus on the basics: nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. Learn how to use them correctly in sentences and understand their meaning. It will help you build a strong foundation for your English language learning journey. Divide those topics into subtopics and learn each concept and rule one by one.

Third, find a reliable source of learning materials. Online resources such as websites, blogs, and YouTube videos are mostly free. LillyPad’s blog, for example, is a great resource for English language learning materials. Additionally, you can find books and other printed materials in your local library or bookstore.

Fourth, practice speaking the language with native speakers or other English learners. It will help you understand how to use the language correctly in conversations and improve your pronunciation.

Finally, be patient with yourself and don’t give up. Learning a language takes time and effort, so set realistic goals and celebrate your achievements along the way.

Additionally, it is important for learners to properly understand regular verbs, irregular verbs, subjunctive mood and verbs definition and examples.

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Common Mistakes Made by English Learners

Tenses mismatch in sentences following the conditional mood are the most common among English learners. Most of them are not familiar with different types of conditional sentences, making them prone to committing this mistake. 

Common MistakeCorrectionExamples
Using future tense in the main clause of zero conditional statementsSince zero conditional sentences speak of general truths, the simple present tense must be used in its main clause. Remember that one function of the present tense is indicating general truths. Incorrect: If you subtract forty from one hundred, it will become sixty.
Correct: If you subtract forty from one hundred, it becomes sixty.

Incorrect: When you mix sand and salt, it will turn into a heterogeneous mixture.
Correct: When you mix sand and salt, it turns into a heterogeneous mixture.
Using future tense in the conditional clause of type 1 conditional statementsThe type one conditional agrees with the simple present tense in its conditional clause to indicate a certain situation. Hence, drop “will” and use the base form of the verb. Incorrect: If he will borrow money, I will not give it to him.
Correct: If he borrows money, I will not give it to him.

Incorrect: If she will cook dinner, I will wash the dishes.
Correct: If she cooks dinner, I will wash the dishes.
Using simple present tense in the conditional clause of type 2 conditional statementsThe simple past tense helps express an assumed circumstance is the conditional mood. While the present tense is mostly used in the main clause of conditionals, the past tense is always used in the if-clause or conditional clause.Incorrect: If my brother was here, he would mow the grass in our backyard.
Correct: If my brother were here, he would mow the grass in our backyard.

Incorrect: If I have my own library, I would read in there every night.
Correct: If I had my own library, I would read in there every night.
Using modal auxiliary verbs in the conditional clause of type 3 conditional statementsWhen writing in the conditional mood, modal auxiliary verbs are always at the main clause. Use the past perfect tense in the if-clause or conditional clause of type 3 conditional form.Incorrect: If Elena would have called me that night, I would have fetched her after the event.
Correct: If Elena had called me that night, I would have fetched her after the event.

Incorrect: If he could have reported the incident sooner, the team could have resolved it faster.
Correct: If he had reported the incident sooner, the team could have resolved it faster.
Conditional Mood Common Errors Table
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Learning Strategies and Best Practices for the Conditional Mood

A holistic approach to learning a language makes it easier to understand and remember. The five macro skills, reading, listening, viewing, speaking, and writing, should be developed and used in the learning process for better language acquisition. The table below lists activities you can do when learning linking verbs:

Learning Strategies
Reading– Use flashcards to know basic English sight words and their meaning.
– Search for material that contains translations of common expressions from your native language to English.
– Select study materials appropriate for your language proficiency.
Listening– Listen to an audiobook or a song and write what you hear to improve your retention of English words.
– Compare and contrast two audio materials like TV ads and a speech.
– Summarize a podcast, movie, audiobook, and other English audio materials.
Viewing– Observe how native speakers speak and try to mimic it.
– Watch English movies, interviews, and tutorials.
– Use pictographs to learn and remember new words.
Speaking– Join a community of English language learners and communicate with them to improve and gain feedback.
– Integrate the language in your daily life and try to speak using English.
– Participate in speech organizations (e.g. debate club, theatre groups)
Writing– Write a journal of your learning journey in English.
– Answer practice tests and create your own sentences.
– Create a reflection essay on the media you watch or listen to.
Conditional Mood Learning Strategies
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Conditional Mood Frequently Asked Questions

The conditional mood of a verb shows the speaker’s attitude towards a possible action or event. It is used to express what would happen if certain conditions were met. For example, “If I had more money, I would buy gold bars” expresses the idea that the speaker does not currently have enough money to purchase gold bars, but if they did, they would do so.

The zero conditional, first conditional or type one, second conditional or type two, and third conditional or type three are the different types of conditional statements. General truths are expressed using the zero conditional while the first conditional shows a likely or probable future event.

The second conditional states an unlikely future event, while the third conditional depicts a hypothetical past event.

Conditional and subjunctive moods of a verb are closely related since both express hypothetical situations. However, the subjunctive mood expresses a wish, desire, or suggestion, while the conditional mood expresses what would happen if certain conditions were met.

For example, “If I were rich” is in the subjunctive mood because it expresses a wish the speaker does not currently have. Meanwhile, “If you were at the concert” is a conditional mood since it implies that one has to be at the concert for a situation to happen.

1. If I were in your situation, I would immediately consult a lawyer.
2. If you had asked me earlier, I could have helped you.
3. If it rains tomorrow, we will stay inside.
4. When you drop a ceramic plate, it will break.
5. If I saved extra money, I would buy a new computer.

The grammatical mood is a characteristic of a verb that expresses the speaker’s attitude towards a situation. In English, there are five main moods: indicative, interrogative, imperative, conditional, and subjunctive.

To make statements, the indicative mood is used. The interrogative mood functions to ask questions, while the imperative mood makes commands or requests. The conditional mood expresses what would happen if changes in events or conditions happened, while the subjunctive expresses a wish, desire, or suggestion.

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