If I knew the answer, I would tell you.

If I know the answer, I will tell you.

I totally understand both sentence, but I am confused when to use them. For example; if someone asking me about the answer why would I say the first conditional, and why would I say the second one?

  • It depends on whether or not you know the answer. – Lucian Sava Feb 20 '16 at 13:57
  • First type is used to predict a result, or once the first clause is triggered, the consequent action will take place at some point in the future. Second type is used for unreal present situations. – Alejandro Feb 20 '16 at 14:05
  • "If I know the answer, I will tell you" doesn't make sense. " I don't know the answer, so I can't tell you." is the idea. "When I know the answer I will tell you." would work. – Cascabel Feb 20 '16 at 14:54
  • How do you say and use those if-sentences (with real and unreal condition) in your mother tongue? – rogermue Feb 20 '16 at 15:58
  • 1
    Wikipedia has an article on English conditional sentences which discusses first conditional, second conditional, third conditional, etc. – ghostarbeiter Mar 21 '16 at 17:56

The second sentence ("if I know") is rather unlikely to be said, and if it were said, it would probably be interpreted with future meaning (i.e. "if at some time in the future I know the answer").

The first sentence implies that you do not know the answer, and therefore will not tell you.

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