I know conditionals can be classified in different ways. In english there are indicative, predicative,implicative, counterfactual, casual, subjunctive,zero, first second, third, mixed conditional, material implication.
I would like to make some clarity on this classification beacuse there are too many and it's really a mess for a non native speaker.
I'd love if someone can point out similiarities or relations between them in a way that can link them all.

  • Where did you hear about all those kinds of conditionals?
    – Moss
    Oct 9, 2019 at 19:57
  • Oh, I see, Wikipedia... I will have a look and try to break it down in simpler terms.
    – Moss
    Oct 9, 2019 at 20:00
  • I think these are only used by people teaching English, I've never heard linguists use them.
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 10, 2019 at 1:16

1 Answer 1


OK, after doing a bit of research on the terms you have listed, here is my understanding.

First off, you are mixing classifications systems, or "comparing apples to oranges" as we say in English. The Wikipedia article on conditional sentences first off describes semantic categories of conditionals. These are not restricted to English. They describe the meaning of the sentence, so they are language independent.

  1. Implicative/Predictive (not predicative)

    These are "straightforward", factual statements about how the world works or things that must logically be true. The difference between implicative and predictive seems to be that there is an element of uncertainty in the outcome, especially uncertainty caused by human free will (a promise can be broken), but I don't know if free will is relevant.

    Implicative example: If water reaches 100 degrees C, it boils.

    Predictive example: If I become President, I'll lower taxes.

  2. Counterfactual

    As Wikipedia says, these apply to situations where the IF part of the sentence is not true, or maybe is just thought to be untrue, or is very unlikely to be true.

    Counterfactual example: If you had called me, I would have come.

The Wikipedia article then describes conditionals in grammatical terms for various languages, starting with English. These have to do with the form in a language rather than the meaning, although you can say that the meaning determines the form (from the speakers perspective), or the form indicates the meaning (from the listeners perspective).

For English they list five "forms".

  • Zero conditional

    This appears as If + present tense + (then) present tense, and corresponds with implicative conditionals.

  • First Conditional

    This appears as If + present tense + (then) future tense, and corresponds with predictive conditionals.

  • Second conditional

    This appears as If + past subjunctive + (then) would + infinitive, and corresponds with counterfactuals about things that are presently not true.

  • Third conditional

    This appears as If + had + past participle + (then) would have + past participle. This corresponds to counterfactuals about things that didn't not happen.

  • Mixed conditional

    This is a combination of the second and third conditional. Either the first part is past and the second part is present, or the second part is past and the first part is present.


    If you had done your job properly (past), we wouldn't be in this mess now (present).

    If we were soldiers (present), we wouldn't have done it like that (past).

You mention indicative and subjunctive in your list. These don't directly have to do with conditionals, but can be used by them. These are grammatical concepts that are relevant in some languages and not in others. (Some languages don't have verb forms or syntax that distinguishes between indicative and subjunctive.) In English the subjunctive is almost gone but it can be seen in one context: second or mixed conditionals with a singular subject. In English it would be grammatically normal to say "He was rich." But when speaking in counterfactual terms you would say "If he were rich..." However, in casual speech many English speakers today would just say "If he was rich...". If the subject is plural, like "They were rich" or "If they were rich..." were is used in both cases so you cannot distinguish the form.

Finally, you mention "casual", and "material implication". The first one appears to be a legal term, and the second one appears to be used in formal logic. They are not terms used to describe English grammar.

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