Lesson plan - ESL grammar : The Conditional Tense

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ESL lesson: The conditional tense

The following article will provide a fifty-minute lesson plan - ESL grammar - on teaching the conditional tense including a spoken exercise, a written exercise, and a game. It focuses on the phrase “If I were a __________, I would ___________.”

Introducing the Conditional Tense

Students enter the room and the words “If I were a __________, I would____________” are on the board.

The teacher explains that the phrase on the board is hypothetical, which means it may or may not be real in the future. This means that the words that follow “If I were…” aren’t true in this moment, but could be true tomorrow, next month, or next year. This is called the conditional tense.

The teacher begins by writing a few examples on the board. The students are instructed to copy the sentences in their notebook.

“If I were a doctor, I would heal people.”

“If I were a firefighter, I would put out fires.”

“If I were a policeman, I would enforce the law.”

Say each sentence and have the students repeat.


Now, the teacher asks the students to think of as many kinds of people as they can and writes them down on the board as the students say them.

Example: construction worker, gardener, principal, security officer, president, artist, musician, etc.

Writing Exercise

The students, using the examples from the board, then finish the sentence, “If I were a____________, I would _________.” They write at least eight examples in their notebooks. While they are writing these, make sure to check up on everyone in the class. The conditional tense can be really tricky for some students and they might be confused. If there are only a handful of students that don’t understand the concept, you should be able to work with them individually in this time to get them up to speed.


As students begin to finish their eight sentences, have them stand up and find three other students and share an example of their work.


As the students finish sharing with one another the teacher draws a picture of someone doing something on the board. For example, a policeman driving, and the students guess what is being drawn and have to use the sentence “If I were a _________, I would___________.”

When the first student guesses correctly that student has the opportunity to draw another example on the board. If they are not interested, they can choose another student in their place.


For the rest of class, if there is time, assign your students a one page (the length can vary) story entitled “If I were a ___________, I would____________”. They, of course, fill in the blanks. For the rest of class, help students think of how they want to write their story.

This post is part of the series: ESL Lesson Plans

These articles are a great resource for any ESL teacher. They include fully thought out lesson plans with games, step by step instructions, and a lot a quality learning.

  1. ESL Lesson Plan: The Conditional Tense
  2. Easy ESL Math Lesson Plan: Counting to a Million
  3. Improving Listening Skills: English Verb Tenses For Your ESL Class
  4. Teaching Teenage ESL Students About Basic Nouns