Second Conditional Sentences + Examples | English Grammar Lesson
Let’s study 2nd Conditional sentences! I’ll explain how we use the Second Conditional & help you practice with examples and exercises!
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Hey there I’m Emma from mmmEnglish! Today we’re going to roll up our sleeves and practise with the second conditional. Now this is one of my favourite grammar structures in English because we use it in different ways and we can have lots of fun with it as well.
So that you know exactly what will happen in this lesson let me give you a bit of an overview.
Firstly we’re going to talk about the meaning, when and why you should use the second conditional. Then we’re going to look at what it looks like, what words, what tenses, what punctuation are important to help you use the second conditional accurately. Then I’ve got a few important extra tips to help you use the second conditional correctly. So make sure you stick around for that part and of course, there’ll be some practice at the end.
I’ll be making a series of videos about conditionals so make sure you subscribe to the channel and turn on notifications so that you know when each new lesson is ready for you.
Now this lesson is a little longer than usual because I really want to give you a clear and complete understanding of the second conditional. So go grab a coffee or a cup of tea, settle in.
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Alright let’s get started with this lesson. When can you use the second conditional? We use it in a few ways:
1. to imagine that our lives or someone else’s life is different
2. we use it to ask hypothetical questions
3. to give advice
4. and to give reasons why you can’t do something
So you might have practised a little with the first two but the third and the fourth are both interesting and different ways to use the second conditional. So I’m really excited to get into those.
1. To imagine life is different
But let’s start with number one. We use the second conditional to talk about things in the future that are unlikely or things that are impossible in the present.
So we use it to imagine and to dream that the present situation is different than it really is. Now this could be because it’s impossible now or because it’s really unlikely to become real in the future, not completely impossible but unlikely.
So with the second conditional, we say if this happened then that would happen. So for example.
If I had enough money, I would buy a house.
If the present situation was different then I would do that.
If I won the lottery, I’d buy a house.
Now this is an unlikely event in the future right because it’s unlikely I’m gonna win the lottery. Possible but unlikely. Before we keep going with the other ways to use the second conditional, let’s spend a little bit of time focusing on what it looks like.
Conditional sentences all have an if clause and a main clause which is sometimes also called the result clause because it can only happen if the if clause occurs. It’s a condition, right? If this happens, then that happens.
Now what exactly makes a conditional sentence the second conditional?
So the second conditional uses a past simple verb in the if clause then ‘would’ followed by the infinitive verb in the main clause.
If she lived in London, she would have English friends.
The if clause is the condition. Does she live in London? No, we’re talking about a hypothetical situation here right so the result clause suggests what would be different and would tells us that we’re imagining the result or you know she would have English friends. It’s not real. She doesn’t have English friends now but it could happen if she lived in London.
If she lived in London, she would have English friends.
Now you can definitely make one or both clauses negative in a second conditional sentence.
If I didn’t want to go, I would tell you.
If I didn’t finish my homework, I wouldn’t tell my teacher.
2. hypothetical questions
And of course, we can ask second conditional questions too. Hypothetical questions to ask someone to imagine what they would do in a different situation. So these situations are not real but it’s kind of fun to ask these types of questions right? It really helps to keep conversations going sometimes.
What would you do if you quit your job?
If you won a million dollars, would you travel the world?
If you only had one day in Singapore, what would you do?
See how fun these types of questions can be?
Choose one of them to answer in the comments below but make sure you write your answer as a full second conditional sentence to practise the structure okay?
If I only had one day in Singapore, I would…
Now you can actually use ‘could’ in the if clause to ask a similar question so you would be saying if you were able to or if it were possible to.
If you could travel to any country, where would you go?
Now notice that when you use ‘could’ in the if clause, the verb that follows ‘could’ is in the infinitive form not in the past simple and that’s because it’s a modal verb right? Standard English grammar rule. After modal verbs, we always have the infinitive.
3. give advice
Now we’ve been talking about hypothetical situations so far but what are these other uses because we can use the second conditional to give advice and if you think about it, when someone asks you for advice, you usually try to imagine what you would do in their situation and share that with them. So for example.
If I were you, I’d talk to my boss before I quit my job.
If I were her, I’d break up with him.
Now if you’re wondering why in both of those examples I was using ‘were’ with the subject I, I’m going to talk about that in a few minutes.
4. give reasons why
But lastly, you can use the second conditional to give reasons why you can’t do something. You’ve probably already noticed that English speakers are usually quite polite to each other.
Instead of just saying ‘no’ we often try and soften our responses by explaining why we can’t do something and sometimes you might just want to explain a situation a little more so the second conditional can really help you to do this. So for example.
If I had the money, I’d lend it to you.
I don’t have to explain myself any further here. This sentence already explains that I don’t have the money so I can’t help. But it suggests that maybe you want to, that maybe you would if you could.
If I wasn’t so busy, I’d invite you over for dinner.
But I am really busy so I can’t invite you over.
So we’ve covered what the second conditional looks like and when you can use it but now I want to share some extra tips to help you understand it better and to help you use it accurately.
So the first one I want to mention is that ‘if’ is a conjunction, right? The purpose of conjunctions is to join two sentences or two different clauses together. There’s a really strong relationship between the two clauses in a conditional sentence, right? They’re really connected. The if clause contains a condition and the main clause contains the result, right? They rely on each other.
Now you may know that with all conditional sentences, you can change the order of your clauses. When this happens, it doesn’t change the meaning but there is an important punctuation change that you need to make.
If it stopped raining, I would go for a walk.
I would go for a walk if it stopped raining.
Now the meaning in these two sentences is exactly the same but notice that when the main clause comes first, we don’t include that comma before the if clause. Now to be honest this is really only significant if you’re sitting an English exam or you’re doing academic writing. You’re going to get marked down for that type of punctuation error. But generally, that’s not really something you need to lose sleep over.
Now in spoken English, the subject and ‘would’, they’re usually contracted.
Now it’s much easier to say this type of sentence quickly and it helps you to sound a little more relaxed as well. But these contractions, very common in spoken English, common in informal written English but you shouldn’t be using contractions in formal written English, right? Just steer clear completely.
Now one of the most interesting parts about the second conditional is that it breaks some standard be verb grammar rules, right? We can actually use ‘were’ instead of ‘was’ with I, he, she and it, right?
Both of them are grammatically correct but I guess ‘were’ is a little more formal alright so we would use it in more formal situations.
If I was you, I would break up with him.
If I were you, I would break up with him.
Both of those sentences are the same.
If she was taller…
If she were taller… she would be an air hostess.
So again we can use either, it’s totally okay, ‘were’ is a little more formal.
All right, phew, oh my gosh! So after all of that, I want you to practise writing some sentences with me in the comments. Now if you’re feeling pretty confident about this, go ahead and create your own sentences, freestyle, you know. Get creative. Give advice. Talk about hypothetical situations. Give reasons why but if you’re feeling still maybe a little uncertain, I’ve added these questions in the description below so all you need to do is copy them and paste them into your comment and then complete the answers yourself. So I’ll be down there checking your answers all weekend to make sure you’re getting them right and if you need some help and support, I’ll be there.
If you enjoyed this lesson, make sure you give it a like, subscribe to my channel so that you know when the next lesson is going to be ready for you. As I said, I will be adding more lessons just like this, with the first, the third, mixed conditionals as well. They’re coming. So I’m guessing that your grammar brain is a little fried right now so if you’re keen to keep practising with me, let’s try something a little lighter, maybe some pronunciation perhaps. Thanks for watching friends. I will see soon. Bye!
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