To begin this lesson on the first and second conditional, show students the chart below. Ask students to identify the difference in meaning between the sentences in the two columns. Ask students which sentences are about real situations, and which sentences are about hypothetical, unlikely situations.
|COLUMN 1||COLUMN 2|
|I will read if I have time tonight.
If we hire more people, we’ll need more space.
If she changes careers, it might be difficult at first.
|I would read if I had more time.
If we hired more people, we’d need more space.
If she changed careers, it might be difficult at first.
After going over the difference in meaning between the sentences, give students a copy of the following chart and go over the difference between the first and second conditional. For a more complete handout on conditionals, including mixed conditionals, see this conditionals guide.
|Used to express real or very possible FUTURE situations and their results.||Condition clause – simple present
Result clause – will, going to, might, may (plus the base form of a verb)
|If you work hard, you will succeed.|
If I have time today, I will go running after work.
I might arrive late if I don’t leave right now.
They won’t take a long lunch break if they are busy today.
|Used to express improbable or impossible PRESENT situations and their results.||Condition clause – simple past
Result clause – would, might, could (plus the base form of a verb)
|If I were** you, I would talk to her about it.|
|**Note: When we use the verb “to be” in the second conditional, we prefer to use “were” for all subjects.
If I had millions of dollars, I wouldn’t have to work.
I might miss my country if I traveled a lot for work.
After going over the first and second conditional forms, have students do the practice exercises and conversation questions below.
First Conditional Practice
Fill in the blanks to create first conditional sentences.
1. If I have time today, _______________________.
2. If there is a lot of traffic tonight, _________________________.
3. If my boss asks me to stay late, __________________________.
4. ______________________________, I’ll do it.
5. _______________________________, he’ll probably say yes.
6. People might get angry if __________________________________________.
**7. I’ll be able to _____________, if _____________________.
**8. I’ll have to _____________, if ______________________.
**Notice that we can’t say “I’ll can” or “I’ll must.”
Second Conditional Practice
Fill in the blanks to create second conditional sentences.
1. If I had my boss’s job, ________________________________________.
2. If we had fewer meetings, _____________________________________.
3. ________________________________________ if I could work from home.
4. ____________________________________ if I were a recent college graduate.
5. ______________________________________, I’d be more productive.
6. ____________________________________, I might start my own business.
7. ________________________________________, I could relax a little more.
8. If the retirement age were 70, _____________________________________.
9. _________________________________________________, I could retire.
10. If I took a career break, ______________________________________.
Discuss the following questions with your group.
1. Who helps you the most at work? How would things be different if you didn’t work with this person? If this person decided to leave the company, what would change?
2. What will you do this weekend if the weather is nice?
3. What do you think might happen if you didn’t get along with the people you work with?
4. If you get a raise, what might you do with the extra money?
5. If you had to change careers, what might you decide to do for a living?
6. What could you accomplish if you had two extra hours of time each day?
7. Think of a current trend in your field of work. Tell your group about this trend. What will happen if this trend continues?
8. If you were able to change one company policy, what would you change?
9. Your own question: ___________________________________________________?
10. Your own question: __________________________________________________?
For additional practice, please see these first and second conditional practice exercises.