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Last Updated September 25, 2021, 9:30 am
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Second conditional

Second Conditional: Imaginary present or unlikely Future
The Second Conditional can be used to talk about
imaginary present situations, where we are imagining something different from what is really the case. We can also use it to talk about things in the future that are unlikely to happen, as the condition is unlikely to be met. We use the past tense in the condition part and would for the result.

Form and Examples of the second conditional

The IF and result clauses may be in any order. Either the IF clause can come first or the RESuLT clause can come first.
IF Condition past simple
Result past form of Would

  1. If I had the time, I would learn Italian.
    Although unlikely to happen, the speaker is sure that they would do it given the opportunity.
  2. If I won the lottery, I would travel around the world.
  3. If I had more time, I might learn Spanish.
    Although unlikely to happen, it is only a possibility any way.
  4. If I had more time, I should learn more about computers.
    Although unlikely to happen, the speaker is saying that it would be a good idea, but is not committed to it.
  5. If I had more time, I could learn Hindi.
    Although unlikely to happen, it is only a possibility any way.
  6. If I were you, I'd marry her.

The second conditional - (Imaginary future)

With the verb to be. Were can be used instead of was.
EG: To give advice. "If I were you, I would stop studying English grammar".

The second form talks about an imaginary jump into the future. We speak as if it had already happened and use the past form of the verb. We imagine ourselves in the future after the idea has happened and speak about it as though it has already happened in the past!!? This is an unreal situation or fantasy! We often use this to say what we would do if we were somebody else!


  1. If I won the lottery then I'd buy a palace. (We imagine a time in the future when this has ALREADY REALLY happened! so in our 'DREAM' we are using the past tense.)
    Note: Would is also the past. As in "When I was young I would often stay out late".

Second conditional form

If + past verb , would + present verb

Can you find which of these are first conditional and which are second conditional. They each use different verb forms:

Find all the sentences that use this second form of conditional. That is where we imagine ourselves in the future so we are using the past tense.

Form: past verb + ...

  1. If you take a look at the handout, you'll find all the telephone numbers, addresses and other necessary information.
  2. If Tom were here, he'd help me with this presentation.
    (unfortunately, he couldn't make it today.)
  3. We'd have serious problems if we didn't have two cars with us today.
  4. If a guest loses his pass, call the manager immediately.
  5. If a visitor has an accident which is not too serious, you'll find the first-aid kit under the reception desk.
    (If the accident is serious, call an ambulance.)
  6. Sometimes visitors need to return home unexpectedly. If this happens, the guest might need your help making travel arrangements.
  7. If there is a problem, the guest will expect us to be able to handle it.
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