English grammar – First conditional

Form

If + present + will + verb

Meaning

First conditional is used to talk about actions/events in the future which are likely to happen or have a real possibility of happening.

  • If it rains tomorrow, I’ll stay at home.
  • (I think there is a real possibility of rain tomorrow. In this condition, I will stay at home)

  • If my father doesn’t buy me a bike for my birthday, I will be very unhappy.
  • (I think there is a real possibility that my father won’t buy me a bike. In this condition, I will be unhappy)

Additional points

Other modal verbs can be used in place of WILL.

  • If it’s sunny tomorrow, I might go to the beach. (going to the beach is only a possibility)
  • If you come early, you can meet my mother. (it is possible for you to meet my mother)

Related grammar points

Zero conditional
Second conditional
Third conditional

5 teaching ideas and comments

  1. Maja Hadzic, Belgrade, Serbia

    I usually give some examples of superstitions, for example,

    If you break a mirror, you will…

    I give students some more examples to finish orally and then have them make their own examples. They write down a couple of examples and in groups try to figure out what goes with the IF clause and the main clause. Report back to the class.

    • Peter

      Maja, I like your idea of using superstitions as they are great for cross cultural interaction, however, in my opinion, superstitions are usually expressed in the zero conditional as they are basic ‘rules’ so to speak that generally don’t change, for example:

      If you break a mirror, you GET 7 years of bad luck.

      A first conditional structure would be:

      What will happen if…?

      which, again in my opinion, sounds a little strange for a superstition.

  2. Liliana, Lima, Peru

    First I start asking my students what they would like to do. They usually suggest watching a video, learning a new song, playing games, listening to stories, etc.
    I write their suggestions on the board and then I mention the conditions in order to get what they have suggested. The sentences written on the board have different colours. I use green for the word “IF”, red for the modal verbs “WILL” or “CAN” and blue for the verbs.

    Later I ask them to think of conditions their parents give/gave them at home:
    If you eat vegetables… brush your teeth… don’t smoke… go to bed early, etc.

  3. Diana Magali

    Students have pieces of paper… each student writes the first part:

    If I go out tonight, I will go to the cinema.

    and then swap papers. So the next student starts the sentence with the last one:

    If I go to the cinema, I will get some popcorn.

    and so on.

  4. Hurasa

    Ask students to think about election time, so pretend they are candidates. Ask them to convince their classmates to vote for them by using first conditional sentences: If you vote for me, I will increase your salary 10 times”
    At the end, lets see which candidate gets more votes.

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