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Conditional sentences are a grammatical mood used for sentences where a hypothetical action might occur or may have occurred in the past. This lesson will discuss the three types of conditional mood.

Put On Your Mood Rings

What mood are you in right now? Happy? Sad? Frustrated? OK, and what about the last sentence you wrote, what was its mood? You might think I’m being silly, but sentences do have moods, called grammatical moods, that show the manner in which a thought is expressed, and the conditional mood is just one of them.There are actually four moods in English: indicative, imperative, subjunctive, and conditional.

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Indicative is the one we are most familiar with. It is used to state a fact, ask a question, or state an opinion. All of the sentences in this lesson so far have been indicative. And what about imperative?Sit up straight and pay attention!That’s imperative, when you are giving an order.

That just leaves subjunctive, which is too confusing to get into here, and conditional, which is what we want to talk about today. The conditional mood, as the name says, describes actions that may happen but are dependent on some specific condition. There are three main forms of the conditional mood.

Conditional Mood I: Probably..

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The first conditional mood is used to describe events that probably will happen, but are still dependent on some other thing happening first:If you read this lesson carefully, you will get a perfect score on the quiz.All conditional sentences have an ‘if’ statement (it’s the condition that needs to be in place) and then an independent clause, or a statement that can stand on its own as a sentence. In the first conditional mood, the verb in the ‘if’ statement is in simple present tense (‘read’) and the independent clause is in simple future tense (will get). That’s because we’re assuming both of these things will happen.

Conditional Mood II: Probably Not…

But what about an event that most likely won’t happen? That’s the second conditional mood:If I crammed all night, I would get a passing grade in the class.This conditional shows a lot less confidence and it is marked by a change from the helping verb ‘will’ to ‘would’. The ‘if’ statement has also shifted from simple present to simple past tense (‘crammed’).

Conditional Mood III: Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda,

The third conditional mood describes something that’s not going to happen, but could have if things had gone differently:If I had paid attention to the lesson, I would have received a perfect score.This time, the ‘if’ statement is in past perfect tense (‘had paid’), indicating something in the past that is already completed. And the independent clause is made up of ‘would have’ plus the past participle of the verb (‘would have received’).This conditional phrasing of ‘would have’ is what often gets truncated to ‘woulda’ (or alternately, ‘coulda’ and ‘shoulda’) in slang speech.

Lesson Summary

The conditional is one of four grammatical moods that describe the manner in which a thought is expressed.The first conditional is used for things that probably will happen:If I ask her to dance, she will say no.The second conditional is for things that probably won’t happen:If I wrote her a love letter, she would respond.The third conditional is for things that could have happened:If I had expressed my love earlier, we would have been married.

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