Conditional II for intermediate learners

Type 2 conditional sentences talk about situations that are hypothetical. There is a possibility that the condition will be fulfilled.

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"Conditional II" in English Grammar

What Are Second Conditionals?

The second conditional is used to describe an impossible or unlikely situation in the present or future. It includes an 'if-clause' that presents a hypothetical condition and a 'main clause' that indicates the hypothetical result.

Second Conditional: Structure

Conditional type II sentences consist of an 'if-clause' that expresses the condition and a main clause that expresses the consequence of the condition being met. The structure of the second conditional is as follows:

(Dependent clause) ['if' + simple past tense] + (main clause) [conditional tense (would/could/should + base form of the verb)]

If I were a boy, I would marry you.

If I had money, I could travel with them.

Was or Were?

The verb to be normally has two forms when used in the past tense which are:

  • 'Was' (used for first person and third-person singular)
  • 'Were' (used for second person singular and all forms of plural)

However, in the second conditional, 'were' is used with all singular and plural nouns and pronouns. Look at the examples below:

If I were you, I would choose to become a teacher.

If she were here, she would dance all night.

Punctuation

When the 'if clause' is at the beginning of the sentence, it is followed by a comma which separates it from the main clause. For example:

If I had a cat, I would name it Susie.

When the 'if clause' is placed after the result clause, there is no need for a comma between the clauses.

They would live in Africa if they had enough money.

Warning!

In the second conditional, the verb tense in the if-clause is always in the past tense, but it does not necessarily mean that the situation actually occurred in the past. The past tense is used to indicate that the situation being described is not currently true or is unlikely to happen in the future.

Uses

The second conditional statement is used when we want to talk about an impossible event, or an unreal and imaginary situation or idea that is not likely to happen. For example:

If I had the chance to study abroad, I would choose Italy as my destination.

If we bought a house near the sea, we could go to the beach every evening.

First Conditional vs. Second Conditional

The first conditional is used to state a possible, real event that is likely to happen now or in the future, while the second conditional is only used when we want to talk about an unreal, hypothetical situation that is unlikely to happen. Pay attention to the examples:

If they work hard, they will succeed.

First conditional

If you were to go to the university, you would be able to study literature.

Second conditional

Furthermore, the simple present and simple future forms are commonly used in the first conditional sentences, while in the second conditional simple past tense and modals are used to indicate the condition and the result.

If I talk to the doctor, she will tell me what to do.

Here you can see that this is about a real-life event.

If I bought a car, I could travel to the countryside on weekends.

As you can see, here we are talking about an unreal situation.

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Conditional I

We use the conditional Type 1 when we want to talk about situations we believe are real or possible in the future. 'If I study hard, I'll pass the exam.'

Conditional III

Conditional III indicates an impossible, hypothetical and unreal condition in the past and its probable result in the past. To learn about them, start reading!

Mixed Conditional

Sometimes the two parts of a conditional sentence refer to different times. This is called a mixed conditional. Ready to learn?
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