Grammar – Second conditional

Explanation

When to use the second conditional

We use the second conditional when we want to talk about a situation that isn’t real, and what the result of the situation would be. We call this a hypothetical situation.

If I had a billion dollars, I would buy the South Island.

This situation is not real. I don’t have a billion dollars, and I probably never will. We don’t care about the past or the future, we are just imagining the situation. It is hypothetical.

I would go home straight away if I could fly.

If I could come, I would. But I can’t.

These are all hypothetical situations, so we use the second conditional.

First or second conditional?

Sometimes there is only a small difference between first and second conditional.

If I see him, I will give him the money.

This sentence is first conditional, which means it is about the future, and is about something that could happen. The speaker could see the man later, and so will tell him.

If I saw him, I would tell him.

This sentence is second conditional, which means it is about a hypothetical situation. The speaker is very unlikely to see the man and tell him.

How to make second conditional

Like all conditional sentences, a second conditionals sentence has a situation and a result.

The situation uses the past simple.

The result uses would (or could) and a base verb – would go, would be, would do, would see etc.

If I was president, I would give everyone a holiday.

I would work in Hollywood if I was a great actor.

Wish

When we use the word ‘wish’ we use the same grammar as the second conditional. ‘Wish‘ acts like the word ‘if‘ and is followed by the past simple. There is no result in a wish sentence.

If I was a movie star, I would be so happy.

I wish I was a movie star.

My brother wishes he had a girlfriend.

Alistair wishes he could read a book every night.

Quiz

Grammar - Second Conditional

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