Second Conditional

Learn English Grammar - Second Conditional

If I were an animal, I’d be a tiger!

Use the Second Conditional to talk about impossible, imaginary, or unlikely situations:

  • If I were an animal, I’d be a tiger. (impossible)
  • What would you do if you had a billion dollars? (imaginary)
  • If Americans ate less fast food, they’d be healthier. (unlikely)

There are two parts to a second conditional sentence: the condition and the result:

CONDITION RESULT
If he exercised more, he’d be thinner.
If I were taller, I could be a professional basketball player.
If the teacher spoke more slowly, we’d understand her better.
If your company went bankrupt, what would you do?

 

It is possible to reverse the condition and the result:

If you slept 8 hours every night, you’d feel better
= You’d feel better if you slept 8 hours every night.

How to form the second conditional:

CONDITION:  if + subject + past simple

RESULT:  subject + would/might/could + verb

With would, it’s common to use the contractions:
I’d, you’d, he’d, she’d, we’d, they’d

What’s the difference between would, might, and could?

would – the result is more definite or certain

If Peter asked Karen to marry him, she would say yes.
(In this case, we know that Karen loves Peter very much)

might – the result may or may not happen

If Peter asked Karen to marry him, she might say yes… but she might say no. (In this case, we aren’t sure if Karen loves Peter or not)

could – to talk about possible results

If I had a million dollars, I could do anything! I could buy a new car every month, I could have my own helicopter, I could live in a mansion, I could eat expensive gourmet food, I could quit my job…
(could emphasizes the opening of possibilities) 

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