The Second Conditional in English

Hello everyone!

We’re going to be looking at what could be one of my favorite conditionals, the second conditional.

Well, there are all reasons that we could use the second conditional.

First, a scary bear. Well, a deadly bear. What would you do if you saw a bear?

Let me give you 3 options now would you a run-away very fast? B Climb a tree or C would you play dead?

Now if you chose A&B, then I’m very sorry, you’re dead.

If you see a bear, well in this case a brown bear, then you should play dead. That’s the general advice that’s given to help you survive.

Now, are you likely to see a bear? Well, no, not really, unless you go hiking in the Canadian mountains. However, it could happen, it’s just very unlikely.

So, this is a very good example of when we might use second conditional. Something is possible. But not probable. So it’s extremely unlikely that you are going to be confronted by a bear.

Now, Donald Trump, let’s not get into politics. The conditional is this if I were president I would………….

What would I do if I were president? I would invest in education on YouTube.

If I were president, I would make sure men and women were paid equally. If I were president, I would offer free cake to all my citizens.

OK, so this is a completely unrealistic, impossible situation in the present. I’m not going to be president. I’m not president now.

And so this shows the difference between 1st and 2nd conditional quite clearly. It is in many cases an impossibility. I can’t become president.

Well, I definitely can’t become president because I’m English. You have to be American to be an American president. Now a crying friend.

They might call you up, you might be sat over a cup of coffee, and they might say, what should I do?

We often use second conditional. In fact, we frequently use second conditional to give advice.

If I were you, I would dump your boyfriend. If I were you, I’d get a new job.

If I were you, I’d go out and have fun. So this is second conditional giving advice. So that’s why and when to use second conditional.

Now let’s look at the structure. So, second conditional, a nice simple sentence. If I won the lottery, I’d go on holiday. I’d probably go on holiday for a year.

But let’s focus on the structure. So as you can see, we have if, but let’s see what tense we have after if we have the past simple.

So if I won, not if I win, of course we have our subjects, our object. And we have our comma when we have the if clause first. Now in the result clause we have I’d go on holiday.

What does I’d represent? Well, it’s the contracted form of wood. Wood is the normal modal verb that we would use in second conditional.

You could of course use maybe should or could, but most often we use would. We would contract would. It’s much more natural.

So I’d, she’d, you’d, they’d, he’d.

Think that’s it. OK, so contracting the would again is a great way to help you sound more natural, but also recognize it when you are listening to a native speaker.

OK and after modal verbs like would, what verb do we have? That’s right, the infinitive form.

So there we go, very simple structure if + past simple + would + infinitive verb.

Now, some of you might want to ask me the question, why do we use I were you were in a second conditional?

Well, it’s simply just the convention. It’s often more formal, particularly in writing, so in formal emails, letters, and academic writing.

But also, it’s generally how we say the second conditional, especially when you’re giving advice.

If I were you to say if I was you. Well, you can. It’s grammatically technically correct, but it’s not the usual way that we would say second conditional with I, you, she and He.

So don’t get confused by that. It’s only with the conditionals. Now remember it’s important to compare and contrast the conditionals so we understand the difference in meaning.

For example, if I win the lottery, I’ll go on holiday, and if I won the lottery I’d go on holiday. Both of those are possible. However, one indicates that we think it is much more unlikely to happen.

Using the 2nd conditional suggests it’s a dream. It’s unlikely you’ll win the lottery. However, using first conditional, if I win the lottery, I’ll go on holiday.

This kind of implies you’re very optimistic and you think it’s a real possibility. So, depending on your perspective, you could use first or second.

So, your homework conditional chain starting with if I won the lottery, let’s imagine you’ve become rich. So if I won the lottery, I’d. Buy a big house.

If I bought a big house, I’d have a big garden. If I had a big garden, I’d get a big dog. If I got a big dog, I’d What would I do? Have to walk it a lot?

If I had to walk the dog a lot, I’d get lots of exercise. If I got lots of exercise, I could eat more cake. See how far you can go with those conditionals guys.

They are a really lovely way of practicing the structure and also emphasizing the reasons why we use those particular conditionals.

So thank you so much for reading, I can’t wait to hear what you would do if you won the lottery.

Now let’s move onto reading different second conditional sentences.

Second conditional sentences:

If I were a superhero, I would fly around the world and help people in need.

If I won the lottery, I would buy a beach house and invite all my friends for a never-ending vacation.

If I had a magic wand, I would use it to bring joy and happiness to everyone I meet.

If I could speak every language, I would travel to different countries and connect with people from all walks of life.

If I met a friendly alien, I would show them around Earth and introduce them to the wonders of human culture.


Second conditional sentences:


If I could time travel, I would visit the roaring ’20s and dance the Charleston with flapper girls and dapper gents.

If I were invisible for a day, I would sneak into a movie theater and enjoy a marathon of my favorite films.

If I had the ability to talk to animals, I would have deep conversations with my pet cat and find out all of his secrets.

If I were a chef, I would create a magical recipe that turns vegetables into everyone’s favorite comfort food.

If I could control the weather, I would make it snow in my backyard, even in the middle of summer, just for the fun of it.

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