Second Conditional

Learn how to talk about imaginary situations with the second conditional.

The second conditional is used for two things. It is used to talk about things that probably won’t happen in the future (imagining), and to talk about things now that are not possible.




-Learn-


How you can make the second conditional

How you can use the second conditional

Practice making the second conditional

Compare the first conditional and the second conditional


Download this explanation as a PDF



How can I make the second conditional?

You can make the second conditional with If + past simple, would + verb

Look at this example


"If I had more money, I would travel every month."

(=but you don't have more money so you don't/ can't travel every month.)



More Examples


  • If I won the lottery, I would buy an island.

(=you probably won't win the lottery, it is unlikely)

  • If I met a famous person, I would be so excited.

(=you probably won't meet a famous person, it is unlikely)

  • I would travel every month if I had more money.

(=you won't travel every month because you don't have more money)


Using Would

It is very common (and more natural😃) to use the short forms of 'would' in conditionals. Here’s how you form them.



Sentence Structure

Like with other conditionals you can change the order of the clauses. When the imagined result is first (the 'would' clause), you don’t need a comma (,).


If I had her number, I would call her.

untrue situation + imagined result

If + past simple, would + verb


I would call her if I had her number.

imagined result + untrue condition

Would + verb if + past simple



How can you use the Second conditional?


Unlikely situations and results

When you want to talk about an unlikely situation and the imagined result now or in the future, you can use the second conditional. In short, you are imagining the result of an unlikely situation.


  • If I saw a snake, I would scream. (it is unlikely that you will see a snake, this probably won’t happen. But this is how you imagine it to be)


  • If I found $1 million dollars on the street, I would give it to charity. (you probably won’t find $1million dollars so you won’t give anything to charity, but this is how you imagine this situation to be)


  • If I found a thief in my house, I wouldn’t know what to do. (it is unlikely that you will find a thief in your house, this probably won’t happen but if it did, this is how you imagine it. )


  • If we were rich, we would have at least five cars. (you aren’t rich so you don't have five cars)



Impossibilities Now

When you want to talk about something in the present that is not true and its impossible result you can use the second conditional.


  • If I had enough sugar, I would make a cake. ( I don’t have enough sugar now, so it's impossible for me to make a cake)


  • I would offer to take you to the hospital but I don’t have a car. ( I don’t have a car now, so it's impossible to offer to take you to the hospital).


  • I would grow my own food if I had my own garden (I don’t have my own garden, so it's impossible for me to grow my own food)



Practice making the second conditional



It's good that you know how to make the second conditional but do you know what it means?

Test your knowledge in this exercise.





Comparison: Second Conditional vs First Conditional


The main difference between the first conditional and second conditional is that the first conditional talks about a specific, real possibility, and the second conditional talks about an imaginary situation.





To practice understanding the difference between the first and second conditional, try this exercise.








Learn & Practice More 

with private lessons

Online Meeting
Image by Brooke Cagle
Online Class
Online Meeting
Working at Outdoor Cafe
Modern Senior Woman

Practice Speaking More

join our Conversation Club

Previous
Next