How To Use Conditional Sentences in Academic Writing

How important is English grammar when it comes to academic writing? Well, if you’re writing in English, it’s of utmost importance. Quite frankly, researchers and students should have a thorough understanding of certain intricacies of grammar. For instance, take conditional sentences. This category of grammar is of great utility in academic writing. Hence, it’s important to learn and understand how to use this aspect of English grammar.

Example: If you want to succeed, you need to work hard. 

In this case, the dependent clause is if you want to succeed. The main clause is you need to work hard.

Types of conditional sentences

There are many ways to classify conditional statements. A common method is to classify them based on the probability of the result, which gives the following types of sentences:

  1. Zero conditional
  2. First conditional
  3. Second conditional
  4. Third conditional
  5. Mixed conditional

Things to keep in mind

Punctuation is one of the main areas where people tend to commit errors while using conditional sentences. If the conditional clause comes first, then a comma should be used to separate it from the main clause. However, if the conditional clause comes after the main clause, then there is no need to use a comma.

Example: If I see her, I will let her know.  

(Conditional clause comes before the main clause.)

I will let her know if I see her.
(Conditional clause comes after the main clause.)

Conditional sentences have specific rules regarding tense as well. The table below illustrates this.


Dependent Clause(if clause)Main Clause (then clause)
Zero conditionalSimple PresentSimple Present
First conditionalSimple PresentSimple Future
Second conditionalSimple PastModal auxiliary verb should be present
Third conditionalPast PerfectModal auxiliary verb
Mixed conditionali) Past PerfectPresent Conditional
ii) Simple PastPerfect Conditional

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