The first conditionals take us deeper into the world of probabilities compared to the zero conditionals. If the latter states facts, laws, and some regularities, the former says what is most likely to happen. When taking the IELTS test https://grade.ua/adults/ielts/, you need to know the features of its use. So make sure you differentiate the 1st conditionals from the other 4 types of conditional sentences.
What Is the Difference Between First Conditionals and Zero Conditionals?
The first conditional sentence combines two tenses — present and future. However, the future can only be assumed by a person if this is not a proven law. There is some probability that it will be exactly what the person expects it to be. The first conditionals are used when this probability is high enough. Compare the differences between what is certain to happen and what might happen:
- Law of Nature: Flowers bloom when spring comes.
- Probability: If we fertilize the orange tree, we will get a better harvest.
In the first case, the zero conditional is used, since this fact is recognized by all people living in certain latitudes. In the second case, the first conditional is used because there is a high probability that adding fertilizer will increase the yield. But there is no guarantee that a given orange tree will react positively to these fertilizers.
Here are some more examples from social and personal life:
- Law: If the government commits corrupt acts, parliament creates a commission of inquiry.
- Likelihood: If the government passes the reform bill, more people will receive affordable health care.
- Fact: If I tell a lie, I blush.
- Probability: If I do well on the test, I will have a chance of getting into the best university.
How to Construct a First Conditional Sentence
There are several ways to connect the if-clause and the main clause for the first conditionals:
- If/when + present simple, will + infinitive: If you smile, other people will feel better.
- Will + infinitive + if/when + present simple: Other people will feel better if you smile.
How You Can Replace the Conjunction “If”
You don’t have to use only “if” in all first conditional sentences. There are many other ways you can add variety to your speech or writing:
- When: When you see our guests, you will understand why we are so happy.
- Unless: Unless you put your dog on a leash, others will be afraid to pass by.
- As long as: As long as you remain on the shore, you will not understand the sailors.
- As soon as: As soon as we arrive, they will meet us.
- In case: In case we win the tournament, we will go on tour.
In all these cases, the author is convinced that this is exactly what will happen. However, there is a small chance that the future will still be different.
Using Modal Verbs
You can add different shades of meaning in the first conditional tense. This is done by replacing the simple future with various modal verbs. This way, you can vary the degree of confidence that things will turn out exactly as you expect. You can also use modal verbs to give permission or recommendations. For example:
- If you reach into a cage, a wild animal may become aggressive.
- I can catch the plane if the road is clear.
- If you find a suitable candidate for this job, you should hire them without any test.
- If you buy your daughter skates, she will be able to get to school faster.
What Is Important to Remember
To add nuances of meaning, you can use the present continuous tense and modal verbs in if-clauses, but you cannot use the future tense. Of course, there are some exceptions, but not many. For example, you can use the future tense when you want to demonstrate refusal or willingness. Example:
- If he won’t solve this problem, I will do it.
The first conditional is used when you are sure of the result, but it is still probabilistic and not guaranteed. The degree of probability can be emphasized with different modal verbs (can, may, must, etc.). This will indirectly convey to your interlocutor how confident you are in the result. It is used very often and allows people to form a picture of the future based on their idea of cause and effect.