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2nd Conditional

 
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    Second conditional: unreal situations

    We can use if' sentences to talk about general truths (the ‘0 conditional') as well as future possibilities (‘the 1st conditional'). When we want to talk about hypothetical, imaginary orunreal' situations in the present or future we use another form of if' sentences called the 2nd conditional

     

    If + subject + past simple/continuous + object , would/could/might + bare infinitive

     

     

    If' clause

    Main clause

    Explanation

    If I had a million dollars,

    I would buy a house

    This person  does not have a million dollars at the moment but in an imaginary situation when they did, they would buy a house.

    If I wasn't a teacher,

    I would be an actor

    This person is a teacher but they use the second conditional to talk about their present situation could be different.

    If he was working on a farm,

    he would be very unhappy

    This person is not working on a farm and they use the second conditional to describe their mood if, in a hypothetical situation, they did.

     

     

    2nd conditional: describing the consequences

    In order to change the way we describe the meaning of themain clause' in the second conditional sentences we can use would' which is more common, could', to talk about possibility and might' to describe general uncertainty.

     

     

    If' clause

    Main clause

    Explanation

    If he had a job,

    he would be happier

    A man does not have a job but hypothetically if he did he would be happier in his life

    If politicians were honest,

    the world could be better

    There is a stronger possibility of a better world in an imaginary world where politicians are honest

    If my boss gave me less work,

    I might write a novel

    In the unlikely situation of getting less work, this man may (or may not) write a novel

     

     

    Warning!

     

    It's important to remember NOT to put the modal verb (would', could' or might') in the conditional or if' clause when using conditional sentences:

     

    • If I had time, I would do interesting things (NOT If I would have time I would do interesting things)

      

     

    Flexibility in conditional sentences

    Conditional sentences are flexible, you can swap the if clause' with the second clause and the meaning does not change and  you can do this with all conditional sentences. Note that the comma (,) is lost when we swap the clauses:

     

    • If people relaxed more, they would feel better = People would feel better if they relaxed more

    • If he played better, I wouldn't get angry = I wouldn't get angry if he played better

     

     

    Second conditional - question forms

    Note the change in word order when you make questions with the second conditional

     

    • What would you do if you weren't in prison?

    • If he wasn't so lazy, what would he be doing with this life?

    • What would you look like if you didn't have a big beard?

    • If Britain was warmer, would you be able to live there?

    • Would you dance more if you liked the music?

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