Second Conditional

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Second Conditional: unreal possibility or dream

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_-i7NHS-LFFY/TPdrHtxyY3I/AAAAAAAAAwg/ukcLmkPI1gI/s320/condition.gifThe second conditional is like the first conditional. We are still thinking about the future. We are thinking about a particular condition in the future, and the result of this condition. But there is not a real possibility that this condition will happen. For example, you do not have a lottery ticket. Is it possible to win? No! No lottery ticket, no win! But maybe you will buy a lottery ticket in the future. So you can think about winning in the future, like a dream. It's not very real, but it's still possible.

IF condition result
past simple WOULD + base verb
If I won the lottery I would buy a car.
Notice that we are thinking about a future condition. We use the past simple tense to talk about the future condition. We use WOULD + base verb to talk about the future result. The important thing about the second conditional is that there is an unreal possibility that the condition will happen.
Here are some more examples:

IF condition result
past simple WOULD + base verb
If I married Mary I would be happy.
If Ram became rich she would marry him.
If it snowed next July would you be surprised?
If it snowed next July what would you do?
 
result IF condition
WOULD + base verb past simple
I would be happy if I married Mary.
She would marry Ram if he became rich.
Would you be surprised if it snowed next July?
What would you do if it snowed next July?
 
Sometimes, we use should, could or might instead of would, for example: If I won a million dollars, I could stop working.
Second conditional

The Second Conditional is used to talk about 'impossible' situations.
  • If we were in London today, we would be able to go to the concert in Hyde Park.
  • If I had millions dollars, I'd give a lot to charity.
  • If there were no hungry people in this world, it would be a much better place.
  • If everyone had clean water to drink, there would be a lot less disease.
Note that after I / he/ she /it we often use the subjunctive form 'were' and not 'was'. (Some people think that 'were' is the only 'correct' form but other people think 'was' is equally 'correct' .)
  • If she were happy in her job, she wouldn't be looking for another one.
  • If I lived in Japan, I'd have sushi every day.
  • If they were to enter our market, we'd have big problems.
Note the form 'If I were you' which is often used to give advice.
  • If I were you, I'd look for a new place to live.
  • If I were you, I'd go back to school and get more qualifications.
The Second Conditional is also used to talk about 'unlikely' situations.
  • If I went to China, I'd visit the Great Wall.
  • If I was the President, I'd reduce taxes.
  • If you were in my position, you'd understand.
Note that the choice between the first and the second conditional is often a question of the speaker's attitude rather than of facts. Compare these examples. Otto thinks these things are possible, Peter doesn't.
  • Otto – If I win the lottery, I'll buy a big house.
  • Peter – If I won the lottery, I'd buy a big house.
  • Otto – If I get promoted, I'll throw a big party.
  • Peter – If I got promoted, I'd throw a big party.
  • Otto – If my team win the Cup, I'll buy champagne for everybody.
  • Peter – If my team won the Cup, I'd buy champagne for everybody.
Note that the 'If clause' can contain the past simple or the past continuous.
  • If I was still working in Brighton, I would commute by train.
  • If she were coming, she would be here by now.
  • If they were thinking of selling, I would want to buy.
Note that the main clause can contain 'would' 'could' or 'might.
  • If I had the chance to do it again, I would do it differently.
  • If we met up for lunch, we could go to that new restaurant.
  • If I spoke to him directly, I might be able to persuade him.
Also note that sometimes the 'if clause' is implied rather than spoken.
  • What would I do without you? ("if you weren't here")
  • Where would I get one at this time of night? ("if I wanted one")
  • He wouldn't agree. ("if I asked him")










Match up the parts of the sentence


1.
If I lost my job,
   a) we'd both benefit.
   b) I'd have a lot of problems getting another one.
   c) you'd be more aware of what people really felt.
   d) we wouldn't be so behind technologically.

2. If I were in your position,
   a) I'd resign rather than wait to be sacked.
   b) I'd have a lot of problems getting another one.
   c) you'd be more aware of what people really felt.
   d) we wouldn't be so behind technologically.

3. If I spoke Japanese as well as you do,
   a) I'd resign rather than wait to be sacked.
   b) I'd try to find a job with one of the Japanese banks.
   c) we'd both benefit.
   d) we wouldn't be so behind technologically.

4. If we spent more on Research and Development,
   a) I'd resign rather than wait to be sacked.
   b) I'd have a lot of problems getting another one.
   c) I'd try to find a job with one of the Japanese banks.
   d) we wouldn't be so behind technologically.

5. If you spoke less and listened more,
   a) I'd resign rather than wait to be sacked.
   b) I'd have a lot of problems getting another one.
   c) I'd try to find a job with one of the Japanese banks.
   d) you'd be more aware of what people really felt.

6. If you spent more time on your own problems and a bit less on mine,
   a) I'd resign rather than wait to be sacked.
   b) I'd have a lot of problems getting another one.
   c) we'd both benefit.
   d) I'd try to find a job with one of the Japanese banks.

7. If we controlled our expenses a bit better,
   a) I'd resign rather than wait to be sacked.
   b) I'd have a lot of problems getting another one.
   c) we'd save a lot of money.
   d) I'd try to find a job with one of the Japanese banks.

8. If you invested some time into learning how the Internet works,
   a) you'd find that it could really help you in your job.
   b) I'd have a lot of problems getting another one.
   c) we wouldn't be so behind technologically.
   d) I'd try to find a job with one of the Japanese banks.

9. If we opened an office in Tokyo,
   a) we wouldn't be so behind technologically.
   b) you'd be more aware of what people really felt.
   c) I'd be interested in working there.
   d) we'd both benefit.

10. If you didn't take the job,
   a) you'd regret it later.
   b) you'd be more aware of what people really felt.
   c) we wouldn't be so behind technologically.
   d) I'd try to find a job with one of the Japanese banks.






This analysis of conditional verb forms was written by Rob De Decker, who teaches English at a Flemish grammar school (equivalent to an American high school) in Schellebelle, Belgium. It is used here with his permission.

Conditional Clause and Main Clause


If I have enough money,
conditional clause    
I will go to Japan.
    main clause
I will go to Japan,
main clause    
if I have enough money
    conditional clause

First, Second, and Third Conditional


1. First conditional: If I have enough money, I will go to Japan.
2. Second conditional:If I had enough money, I would go to Japan.
3. Third conditional:If I had had enough money, I would have gone to Japan.


Conditional clauseMain clause
1. If + Present Tense will + inf / present tense / imperative
  1. If you help me with the dishes (if + pres),
    I will help you with your homework. (will + inf)
  2. If the sum of the digits of a number is divisible by three,
    the number is divisible by three (Pres. tense)
  3. If you see Mr Fox tonight, tell him I am ill. (imperative).
2. If + Past Tense would + inf
3. If + Past Perfect Tense would have + past participle
We do not normally use will or would in the conditional clause,
only in the main clause.

Uses of the Conditional


  1. First conditional
    1. Nature: Open condition, what is said in the condition is possible.
    2. Time: This condition refers either to present or to future time.
      e.g. If he is late, we will have to go without him.
      If my mother knows about this, we are in serious trouble.

  2. Second conditional
    1. Nature: unreal (impossible) or improbable situations.
    2. Time: present; the TENSE is past, but we are talking about the present, now.
      e.g. If I knew her name, I would tell you.
      If I were you, I would tell my father.
      Compare:
      If I become president, I will change the social security system. (Said by a presidential candidate)
      If I became president, I would change the social security system. (Said by a schoolboy: improbable)
      If we win this match, we are qualified for the semifinals.
      If I won a million pounds, I would stop teaching. (improbable)

  3. Third conditional
    1. Nature: unreal
    2. Time: Past (so we are talking about a situation that was not so in the past.)
      e.g. If you had warned me, I would not have told your father about that party.(But you didn't, and I have).

Remember!



1. The conditional construction does not normally use will or would in if-clauses. EXCEPTION: If will or would express willingness, as in requests, they can be used in if-clauses.
e.g. If you will come this way, the manager will see you now.
I would be grateful if you would give me a little help.
(= ± please, come this way; please, give me...)
2. For the second conditional, were replaces was:
If I were a rich man...
3. After if, we can either use "some(-one, -where...)" or "any(-one, -where...).
If I have some spare time next weekend....or :
If I have any spare time...
4. Instead of if not, we can use unless.
e.g. I'll be back tomorrow unless there is a plane strike.
He'll accept the job unless the salary is too low.
5.There is a "mixed type" as well, for the present results of an unreal condition in the past:
If + Past Perfect - would + inf.
If you had warned me [then], I would not be in prison [now].


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