Second Conditional

We use the Second Conditional to talk about hypothetical / imaginary situations in the present and future. We use the Past Simple in the Second Conditional because the situation is imaginary. If you would like to learn more about the Second Conditional, you’ve come to the right place. Feel free to look around, learn, and practice.

second conditional
Form
Conditional Clause Main Clause
If + Past Simple, + would(n’t) + verb.

If she won the lottery, she would travel around the world.

If she won the lottery, = the conditional clause

she would travel around the world. = the main clause

If I was stronger, I would be able to lift that box.

If I didn’t have so many friends, I would be lonely.

If you liked her, would you ask her out on a date?

*NOTE: In spoken English, would is often contracted to ‘d.

If she won the lottery, she‘d travel around the world.

If I was stronger, I‘d be able to lift that box.

It is also possible to invert the sentence by putting the main clause before the conditional clause. We do this to add variety to our speech and also when we want to emphasise a certain part of the sentence.

So, we can also use the following structure:

Main Clause Conditional Clause
Would(n’t) + verb + If + Past Simple.

*NOTE: When the main clause comes before the conditional clause, we do not use a comma before the conditional clause.

She would travel around the world if she won the lottery.

I would be able to lift that box if I was stronger.

I would be lonely if I didn’t have so many friends.

Would you ask her out on a date if you liked her?

When using the verb be in the if clause, use were for everyone.

If you were taller, you’d be able go on that ride.

*NOTE: It is also possible to use was instead of were but it is more informal.

If you was taller, you’d be able go on that ride.

We can use the second conditional with the if I were you phrase in the conditional clause to give advice.

If I were you, I’d move somewhere warmer.

If I were you, I’d go see a doctor

We can use modal verbs in the main clause instead of would.

-use might / may / could to show probability or uncertainty.

If she won the lottery, she might travel around the world.

-use could / be able to to talk about ability.

If she won the lottery, she could travel around the world.

-use should when you want to talk about something that is advisable or probable.

If you lent him $20 last week, you should get it back soon.

It is possible to use the Past Continuous in the if clause.

If you were walking down the street and I saw you, I’d say “hi”.

I’d wake you if you were sleeping and you had to get up early.

It is also possible to use the Present Continuous in conjunction with would in the main clause.

If I were rich, I’d be travelling around the world right now.

I wouldn’t be helping you right now if you weren’t my friend.