The First Conditional Tense in English Grammar with Examples

How can we answer the question, “Do you need the car tomorrow?”

If we know for sure the answer is yes, then the simple future is what we need.
Yes, I will need the car tomorrow.

But maybe you are not sure. If your friend gives you a ride, then you will not need the car. But maybe you don’t know for sure if your friend is coming. This is a job for the conditional tense!

Conditional tenses help you talk about things that might happen in the future.

If my friend doesn’t come, I will need the car.

How do you form the first conditional grammar tense in English?

This tense requires us to construct a sentence in two parts.

We can keep the sentence that uses the simple future.

I will need the car.

The other part of the sentence needs the word if. If is the word that creates the condition – maybe yes, maybe no. Use if with the verb in the present simple tense.

If my friend doesn’t come, I will need the car.

When Do I Use The First Conditional?

You will probably use the first conditional tense a lot! This tense is used to talk about things which might happen in the future. Of course, we can’t always know what will happen in the future. However, this describes things that could easily happen.

  • If it rains, I won’t go to the beach.
  • If I study today, I‘ll go to the party tomorrow.
  • Ifhave enough money, I‘ll buy the concert tickets.
  • If traffic is bad, he will be late.
  • If she doesn’t study, she will fail the test.
  • Ifsee her, I‘ll tell her.

You Can Change the Order of the Parts

If you want to, you can put the part with will + infinitive verb at the beginning of the sentence. It will mean exactly the same thing. You won’t need the comma to separate the parts.

I won’t go to the beach if it rains.
I’ll go to the party tomorrow if I study today.
I’ll buy the concert tickets if I have enough money.
He’ll be late if traffic is bad.
She’ll fail the test if she doesn’t study.
I’ll tell her if I see her.

How Can I Make a Negative Sentence With the First Conditional?

Making a first conditional sentence negative is easy. Just think of each part by itself, and make one of them negative, the same way you always make sentences negative.

You will have to use won’t + infinitive verb in the clause with the simple future.

I won’t go to the beach if it rains.
I won’t need the car if my friend comes to pick me up.

In the if + simple present part, just add don’t or doesn’t. 

I’ll go to the beach if it doesn’t rain.
I will need the car if my friend doesn’t come to pick me up.

(Remember, if you are using be in the if clause, you don’t need the helping verb do.)

If John isn’t sick, he will go to work.
If we aren’t cold, I will turn the furnace down.

Notice that the meaning of your sentence will be a little different if you make the if + simple present part negative, or the will + infinitive part negative.

If John is sick, he won’t go to work.
If John isn’t sick, he will go to work.

If the cat doesn’t sleep with me, I will sleep well.
If the cat sleeps with me, I won’t sleep well.

Sometimes you can make both parts negative, because each part has a subject and a verb. 

If Kay isn’t free tomorrow, we won’t invite her.
We won’t get the car fixed if we don’t have enough money.

How Can I Ask a Question with the First Conditional?

All you have to do to make a question in the first conditional is to start the question with the will + infinitive verb clause, then end it with a question mark. It’s super easy!

Will you need the car tomorrow if your friend comes to pick you up?
Will we invite Kay if she isn’t free tomorrow?
Will John go to work if he feels sick?

Three Little Tricks With the First Conditional

You can change the meaning of your conditional sentence by replacing will with another word. Look at these examples:

If it’s sunny this afternoon, we will go swimming.
If it’s sunny this afternoon, we can go swimming.
If it’s sunny this afternoon, we might go swimming.

You can use can, may, or might instead of will. (Usually, may and might have the same meaning, so you can use either one.) It will add a little more “maybe” to your sentence. Here are a few more examples:

If my car breaks down, we will take the bus. (we will definitely take the bus.)
If my car breaks down, we can take the bus. (maybe we can take the bus, or maybe we can take the train.)

We will eat at McDonald’s if the Chinese restaurant is closed. (we will definitely go to McDonald’s.)
We might eat at McDonald’s if the Chinese restaurant is closed. (we might eat at McDonalds, or maybe we will eat somewhere else.)

First Vs. Zero Conditional:

The first conditional describes a specific situation.

If you eat to much, you’ll get sick. (We are eating together and I am telling you not to eat too much.)

The zero conditional, made with the simple present in both parts, talks about things that are always true, every time.

If you eat too much, you get sick. (Every time you eat too much, you always get sick.)

So the zero conditional is for general facts and habits. The first conditional is for a specific event.

First Vs. Second Conditional

The first conditional describes things that I think are likely to happen in the future.

If Renee does the laundry, she will have something to wear.

The second conditional talks about things that I don’t think will happen. To make the second conditional, we use if + simple past, and would + infinitive verb. For example:

If Renee did the laundry, she would have something to wear. (Renee is to busy to do any laundry this week.)

Click here to learn more about the Second Conditional Tense in English Grammar with Examples

Read about the Third Conditional Tense in English Grammar with Examples

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