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Conditionals

 

The second conditional is used to talk about ...


Imagined present/future situations and their imagined results.

If you spoke English, you wouldn't need to read this.

Be careful - I know the first half looks like the past simple, but it is used to mean now or the future.

second conditional

We often use this form to give advice:


Compare the first conditional with the second conditional:

If I win the lottery, I'll buy you a present! (first)

If I won the lottery, I'd buy a castle! (second)

In the first example, the speaker buys lottery tickets, and is hopeful of winning (they think it's a real, future possibility). In the second, the speaker is just having fun imagining it.


Imaginary SituationImaginary Result
if + past simplewould(n't) + verb
If he asked me to marry him, I'd say "yes".

It doesn't matter if you say the situation or the result first.

I'd marry him if he asked.    =    If he asked, I'd marry him.




Second Conditional: Advanced Points


With I, he, she and it you can say was or were - both are common in informal British English.

If it was/were warmer, we would go to the beach.

However, in traditional grammar, were is considered correct, and in normal conversation were can sound more formal.


You can use past simple or continuous to talk about imaginary situations. You can use would, might and could to talk about the result of these situations.


Situation
Present State (past simple)If I was less hungry ...
Present Action (past continuous)If I was eating now ...
Future Action (past simple)If I ate tonight ...
Result
Definite Result (would)... I would be happy.
Possible Result (might)... I might be happy.
Ability (could)... I could be happy.

The teacher would play computer games all day if she didn't have a job.


Second Conditional practice

Next lesson: third conditionals

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