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Consider the following sentence with a first conditional:

If it rains tomorrow, I will go to the cinema.

All the examples of first conditionals that I found use "will" instead of "would." Is it possible to replace "will" with "would" while retaining the same exact meaning, i.e.,

If it rains tomorrow, I would go to the cinema.

Or, would I have to put the inflected verb in preterite form (as mentioned in this related posting), like this:

If it rained tomorrow, I would go to the cinema.

[Edit 1: I clarified that I want to retain the same meaning among these examples.]

[Edit 2: Corrected silly mistake where the first example was the same as the second example.]

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  • Will implies it is absolutely going to happen. Would implies it -might- happen. Commented Apr 26, 2013 at 20:24
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    No, the first one doesn't have the same meaning. RoDaSm's answer is correct: "If it rains tomorrow, I would go to the cinema" is conditional advice suggesting that the person you're talking to should go to the cinema in the case of rain. Commented Apr 26, 2013 at 20:49
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    “It is clear that a division of conditionals into the zero, first, second, and third categories does not adequately reflect actual usage.” —from “If only it were true: the problem with the four conditionals”, Christian Jones and Daniel Waller, ELT Journal 65:1 pp 24–32 (2011), Oxford University Press, doi: 10.1093/elt/ccp101.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jan 24, 2015 at 14:34
  • @PeterShor, were you only talking about the sentence in the question, or do you consider all such sentences (i.e. with a would in place of will, and a present-tense verb in if-clause) as grammatically incorrect? // And, what do you think about 1. "If you decide to sell the car, we would make an offer" and 2. "If you ask me nicely, I would come with you"? Do you find both of them unacceptable? Commented Jan 30, 2020 at 9:00

2 Answers 2

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You have a mixed conditional, not a first conditional. Your sentence gives advice to another person, and is not a statement of you own personal purpose.

If it rains, I will go tomorrow is a statement of what you would do given the condition of If it rains.

If it rains, I would go tomorrow is advice given to another person as to their best actions given the condition If it rains. In spoken English it would be said as If it rains, I'd go tomorrow.

If it rained, I would go tomorrow is a conditional that suggest that you will perform an action that you do not think is likely to happen.

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  • Yes, I agree with Peter Shor: excellent answer.
    – user19148
    Commented Apr 26, 2013 at 21:45
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In the "would" case it means that my going tomorrow is psychologically remote. So the "would" part is loosely dependent on the first part. The hearer has to understand that even if it rains tomorrow, my going to cinema is not that certain.

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