Undrestanding Conditionals II: Second Conditional

In the previous post, we have written about First Conditional. In this post, we continue this series by talking about Second Conditional.

We use Second Conditional for unlikely situations in the present or future:
Conditional clause –  Main clause

If + Past Simple – would
If I had a million pounds, I would probably buy a yacht.

The if – clause is usually past simple. However, we can also use the past continuous, could, or were/was to:

If you were coming with me, I’d give you a lift.
If I could have the day off, I’d come with you.
If you were to ask John, I’m sure he would do it.

In the conditional clause, `were’ is sometimes used instead of `was’, especially after `I’.

If I were as big as you, I would kill you.
If I were asked to define my condition, I’d say `bored’.

The main clause often has ‘would’. We can also use ‘could’ or ‘might’.

If we had a calculator, we could work this out a lot quicker.
If she worked harder, she might do even better at her studies.

Exercises: Put the verbs in brackets into the correct form.

  1. If we (work) all night we (finish) in time, but we have no intention of working all night.
  2. If someone (ring) my doorbell at 3 a.m. I (be) very unwilling to open the door.
  3. If I (have) heaps of money I (drink) champagne with every meal.
  4. If the earth suddenly (stop) spinning we all (fly) off it.
  5. Of course I’m not going to give her a diamond ring. If I (give) her a diamond ring she (sell) it.

Answers:

  1. If we worked all night we would finish in time, but we have no intention of working all night.
  2. If someone rang my doorbell at 3 a.m. I would be very unwilling to open the door.
  3. If I had heaps of money I would drink champagne with every meal.
  4. If the earth suddenly stopped spinning, we would all fly off it.
  5. Of course I’m not going to give her a diamond ring. If I gave her a diamond ring she would sell it.

Note: When you are talking about an unlikely situation, you use the simple past tense in the conditional clause, and `would’ in the main clause.

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