Conditional sentences are natural language sentences that express that one thing is contingent on something else, e.g. "If it rains, the picnic will be cancelled." They are so called because the impact of the main clause of the sentence is conditional on the dependent clause. A full conditional thus contains two clauses: a dependent clause called the antecedent (or protasis or if-clause), which expresses the condition, and a main clause called the consequent (or apodosis or then-clause) expressing the result.
Languages use a variety of grammatical forms and constructions in conditional sentences. The forms of verbs used in the antecedent and consequent are often subject to particular rules as regards their tense, aspect, and mood. Many languages have a specialized type of verb form called the conditional mood – broadly equivalent in meaning to the English "would (do something)" – for use in some types of conditional sentences.
There are various ways of classifying conditional sentences. Many of these categories are visible cross-linguistically.
A conditional sentence expressing an implication (also called a factual conditional sentence) essentially states that if one fact holds, then so does another. (If the sentence is not a declarative sentence, then the consequence may be expressed as an order or a question rather than a statement.) The facts are usually stated in whatever grammatical tense is appropriate to them; there are not normally special tense or mood patterns for this type of conditional sentence. Such sentences may be used to express a certainty, a universal statement, a law of science, etc. (in these cases if may often be replaced by when):
They can also be used for logical deductions about particular circumstances (which can be in various mixtures of past, present, and future):
A predictive conditional sentence concerns a situation dependent on a hypothetical (but entirely possible) future event. The consequence is normally also a statement about the future, although it may also be a consequent statement about present or past time (or a question or order).
One of the most discussed distinctions among conditionals is that between indicative and counterfactual conditionals, exemplified by the following English examples:
These conditionals differ in both form and meaning. The indicative conditional uses the present tense forms "owns" and "beats" and therefore conveys that the speaker is agnostic about whether Sally in fact owns a donkey. The counterfactual example uses the fake tense form "owned" in the "if" clause and the past-inflected modal "would" in the "then" clause. As a result, it conveys that Sally does not in fact own a donkey. Similar contrasts are common crosslinguistically, though the specific morphological marking varies from language to language.
Linguists and philosophers of language sometimes avoid the term counterfactuals because not all examples express counterfactual meanings. For instance, the "Anderson Case" has the characteristic grammatical form of a counterfactual conditional, but is in fact used as part of an argument for the truth of its antecedent.
The term subjunctive conditional has been used as a replacement, though it is also acknowledged as a misnomer. Many languages do not have a subjunctive (e.g., Danish and Dutch), and many that do have it don’t use it for this sort of conditional (e.g., French, Swahili, all Indo-Aryan languages that have a subjunctive). Moreover, languages that do use the subjunctive for such conditionals only do so if they have a specific past subjunctive form.  The term X-Marked has been used as a replacement, with indicative conditionals renamed as O-Marked conditionals.
Biscuit conditionals (also known as relevance or speech act conditionals) are conditionals where the truth of the consequent does not depend on the truth of the antecedent.
In Metalinguistic conditionals, the antecedent qualifies the usage of some term. For instance, in the following example, the speaker has unconditionally asserted that they saw the relevant person, whether or not that person should really be called their ex-husband.
In conditional questions, the antecedent qualifies a question asked in the consequent.
In conditional imperatives, the antecedent qualifies a command given in the consequent.
Languages have different rules concerning the grammatical structure of conditional sentences. These may concern the syntactic structure of the antecedent and consequent clauses, as well as the forms of verbs used in them (particularly their tense and mood). Rules for English and certain other languages are described below; more information can be found in the articles on the grammars of individual languages. (Some languages are also described in the article on the conditional mood.)
Main article: Latin conditional clauses
Conditional sentences in Latin are traditionally classified into three categories, based on grammatical structure.
In French, the conjunction corresponding to "if" is si. The use of tenses is quite similar to English:
As in English, certain mixtures and variations of these patterns are possible. See also French verbs.
Italian uses the following patterns (the equivalent of "if" is se):
See also Italian verbs.
In Slavic languages, such as Russian, clauses in conditional sentences generally appear in their natural tense (future tense for future reference, etc.) However, for counterfactuals, a conditional/subjunctive marker such as the Russian бы by generally appears in both condition and consequent clauses, and this normally accompanies the past tense form of the verb.
See Russian grammar, Bulgarian grammar, etc. for more detail.
While the material conditional operator used in classical logic is sometimes read aloud in the form of a conditional sentence, the intuitive interpretation of conditional statements in natural language does not always correspond to it. Thus, philosophical logicians and formal semanticists have developed a wide variety of conditional logics that better match actual conditional language and conditional reasoning. They include the strict conditional and the variably strict conditional.