Second Conditional

English Grammar

When we are thinking about a situation in the present or future that is hypothetical, unlikely or impossible, we use:

If + Past Simple, ...Would + Verb

We use a past verb though are imagining the present or the future to be different.

The second clause of subject + would + verb (conditional verb) is conditional to the first clause happening (or will only happen if the first part/clause happens).

Example: If I won the lottery, I would travel around the world.

= It is unlikely that I will win the lottery, but I'm going to hypothetically imagine that I did win. In that situation I would travel around the world. So in order for me to travel around the world, I would need the first clause (the condition or situation) to happen, that is, for me to win the lottery first.

Notice how we use a comma after the past tense clause.

We can also reverse the order and use:

Conditional verb (would + verb) + If + Past Simple

Notice how the comma is not necessary with this word order.

If I were ...

Note that with the verb To Be we use IF + I / HE / SHE / IT + WERE

The reason we use WERE instead of WAS is because the sentence is in the Subjunctive mood.

Though in informal English, you will hear some people say If I was... If he was... etc. This usage doesn't sound good though unfortunately is common.

See our grammar notes about IF I WERE YOU...

Could in Second Conditional sentences

COULD can be used instead of WOULD to make the hypothetical present or future more likely.

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