I’ve been trying to find a way to explain conditional sentences to my students, but I have a hard time getting around the fact that they involve “if…”
How do you explain zero, first, second and third conditionals?

Taken right out of Practical English Usage by Michael Swan…I’d suggest picking up a copy of it yourself so you don’t have to go online and ask other people questions…only $880 at Caves. Anyway…

[quote]First conditional - if+present—will+infinitive. Example: If we play tennis, I’ll win.

Second conditional - if+past—would+infinitive. Example: If we played tennis, I would win.

Third conditional - if+past perfect—would have+past participle. Example If we had played tennis, I would have won.[/quote]

It doesn’t mention zero conditional, but I am guessing that it’s present tense if+present tense (imperative mood). Example: If it rains, take an umbrella.

Don’t forget that Mandarin has conditionals as well, with almost the same sentence structure:

Lugwo wo si ni de hwa, wo buhui gen ta shwo “wo ai ni”.

Conceptually this isn’t the hardest thing for Taiwanese students to grasp. The 3rd conditional can be tricky because they tend to muck up the past participle.

Unlike many teachers who are “No Chinese in Class!” nazis, I found that pointing out similarities and differences between the two languages, using Mandarin to show some examples, can be quite effective.

Adding to ImaniOU’s post

Zero conditional - if/when+present—present. When I play tennis, I always win.
Used when when A certainly leads to B.

First conditional - if+present—will(or other modal)+infinitive. Example: If we play tennis, I’ll win.
Used when A is likely to happen.

Second conditional - if+past—would (or could, should, might…)+infinitive. Example: If we played tennis, I would win.
Used when A is unlikely to happen.

Third conditional - if+past perfect—would (or could, should, might…) have+past participle. Example If we had played tennis, I would have won.
Used when A is a past action that didn’t happen.

Mixed conditional - if+past perfect—would (or could, should, might…)+infinitive. Example If we hadn’t played tennis, you wouldn’t be so tired now.
Used when the present action B is directly related to the past action A.

thanks, and I must pick up a copy of Swan’s book. I tried to get by with a smaller, cheaper, Random House condensed grammar, but obviously, it hasn’t worked.

I’ve owned Swan’s book, Betty Azar’s series, and Raymond Murphy’s series of grammar reference/self study books and would definitely recommend Murphy over the other two. I’ve taught both Azar and Murphy in class - for adult learners, and found Murphy’s explainations and examples to be the most reliable, and easy for students to understand.

If you don’t want to invest in a pure reference book (Swan), and also have to get something that you can use with students (Azar & Murphy), I think Murphy’s book covers both the teachers questions & the students.

Here is a link to Cambridge Univ. Press:

Murphy’s books can be found at Caves or Crane, and several other book stores around Taipei.