Second Conditional : about impossible situations (present and future)

  • Auteur/autrice de la publication :
  • Post category:grammar

2nd Conditional: if + past simple, … would + infinitive


2nd Conditionnal has two uses:
About impossible situation, in the present or in the future:
– in the present: something which is impossible now:
If I had her number, I would call her. (I don’t have her number, so I can’t call her).
If I had millions dollars, I would travel a lot. (I don’t have millions dollars now).
If we were in Paris, we would go to the Eiffel Tower. (but we are in London).

– in the future: something which is not going to be true, but we imagine it:
If I won the lottery, I would buy a big house and a new car.
If I were rich, I would buy a Ferrari.
If there were no hungry people in the world, it would be better.

About unlikely situations:
If I was the President, I’d reduce taxes.
If you were the boss, you’d understand my decision.

We can use « were » instead of « was » with ‘I’ and ‘he/she/it’.
It’s the subjunctive form, and most formal english.

« If I were you » is the form often used to give an advice.
If I were you, I’d study harder.
The « If clause » contain the past form: past simple or the past continuous.
If I was still living in London, I would go to the Hyde Park tonight.
If she were still selling her car, I would buy it.

The « main clause » can contain « would », « could » or « might ».
If I knew it, I would change my mind.
If you told it to me before, I could take an other decision.
If you told it to him before, it might change his decision.

Sometimes, the « if clause » is not spoken.
(if I weren’t here) What would you do?
(if I didn’t do it) Would you send it?
(if they asked me) I wouldn’t agree this!

Differences between the First Conditional and the Second Conditional:
1st conditional: if + present, I will (you think it’s possible, likely)
2nd Conditional: if + past, I would (you think it’s impossible, unlikely, just a dream)

1st Conditional: If I win the lottery, I will buy a big house. (I think it’s possible)
2nd Conditional: If I won the lottery, I would buy a big house. (I think it’s impossible)