First Conditional


If + Simple Present + ,
(If-Clause)
will + base form
(Result Clause)
If I have the money, I will buy a car.
OR
will + base form
(Result Clause)
If + Simple Present
(If-Clause)
I will buy a car if I have the money.


The if-clause establishes a condition, which means that something is necessary or must occur in order for something else to occur. In the example above, I must have money in order to buy the car, so having money is the condition for buying the car.

The first conditional uses the simple present in the if-clause and the future in the result clause. We normally use will in the result clause, but going to is also possible.

If + Simple Present + ,
(If-Clause)
going to + base form
(Result Clause)
If you get straight A's, I'm going to buy you a new computer.
going to + base form
(Result Clause)
If + Simple Present
(If-Clause)
I'm going to buy you a new computer if you get straight A's.

We can begin the sentence with the if-clause or the result clause. If the sentence begins with the if-clause, we use a comma after it (as in this sentence). If the if-clause comes at the end of the sentence, we do not use a comma before it.

Remember: Never use will in the if-clause!

The first conditional is used to express a real possibility in the future. If you use the first conditional, you believe there is a good chance that the condition will be met. In our example, the speaker believes that there is a good chance that he/she will have the money necessary to buy the car.

We often use the negative form won't with even if to make a negative more emphatic.

won't + base form even if + Simple Present
I won't go to the party even if they beg me.

Here the speaker will not go to the party under any conditions, and begging will not change his/her mind.

Another variation is the use of whether or not to say that one thing would not be affected by another thing. Whether or not is usually separated, but it can be used without being separated.

will + base form Whether + Simple Present + or not
I will go to the party whether you go or not.
will + base form Whether or not + Simple Present
I will go to the party whether or not you go.

Conditional sentences can have any combination of affirmative and negative clauses.

If + do/does + not + base form will + base form
If you don't go to the party, I'll stay home.
If + do/does + not + base form will + not + base form
If you don't go to the party, I won't go either.
If + Simple Present will + not + base form
If you go to the party, I won't stay home.
If + Simple Present will + base form
If you go to the party, I'll go too.

You can use unless instead of if in the conditional clause. Unless is approximately equivalent to if...not.

will + base form unless + simple present
I'll stay home unless you go to the party.
unless + simple present will + base form
Unless you go to the party, I'll stay home.

I'll stay home unless you go to the party. = I will stay home if you don't go to the party.

Instead of using unless, we can use provided (that), providing, as long as, so long as, and on condition that.

will + base form provided/etc. + Simple Present
I'll go to the party provided you go too.
I'll go to the party providing you go too.
I'll go to the party as long as you go too.
I'll go to the party so long as you go too.
I'll go to the party on condition that you go too.

We can use only in these conditionals.

only + will + base form if + Simple Present
I will only go to the party if you go too.
will + base form only if + Simple Present
I will go to the party only if you go too.

A variation of the first conditional is the use of the imperative in the result clause instead of the future.

If + Simple Present imperative
If you come to the party, bring some soft drinks.

It is also possible to use modals other than will in the result clause.

If + Simple Present modal + base form
If you go to New York, you should visit the art museums.
If you go to New York, you must see a Broadway show.
If you go to New York, I may go with you.
If you go to New York, I might go with you.

You can also use quasi-modals in the result clause.

If + Simple Present quasi-modal + base form
If you go to New York, you have to go to a good restaurant.
If you go to New York, you need to visit Greenwich Village.

In order to express more doubt about the condition in the if-clause, we sometimes use should or happen to.

If + should + base form will + base form
If I should get the job, I'll move to Los Angeles.

If + happen to + base form will + base form
If I happen to get the job, I'll move to Los Angeles.
If I should happen to get the job, I'll move to Los Angeles.

We can also use adverbs such as probably or possibly to modify the verb in the result clause.

If + Simple Present will + probably + base form
If I get the job, I'll probably move to Los Angeles.

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This page was last modified on 06/15/10

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