The rules for Second Conditional are not difficult, but students don’t always know when to use it. The important thing to remember is that we use Second Conditional when talking about HYPOTHETICAL situations.
- If you spoke perfect English, you wouldn’t be reading this blog.
- If you listened to English songs, your English would improve.
- If flying wasn’t so expensive, more people would travel.
- If I were you, I‘d see a doctor about those headaches.
- If I could swim really fast, I could be an Olympic champion!
- If you could be any animal, which one would you be?
Often we use Second Conditional to talk about how life could or would be different if conditions were different – hypothetical situations and their possible results, so we use two clauses. Often we can use either clause first:
You wouldn’t be reading this blog if you spoke perfect English.
- Your English would improve if you listened to English songs.
- More people would travel if flying wasn’t so expensive.
- I’d see a doctor about those headaches if I were you.
- I could be an Olympic champion if I could swim really fast!
- Which animal would you be if you could be any animal?
The rule is: IF + PAST Tense, WOULD (or COULD) + BASE Verb eg.
- If I won the lottery, I’d buy a Ferrari.
- If I wanted to get fit, I could go to a gym.
* Because COULD can be the past tense of CAN, we can use it in either clause.
* We say: If I were you, … not, if I was you, … This is an old, English rule. You will hear native speakers using both: If I were you, … / if I was you … However, If I were you … is more acceptable, especially in formal, academic, or written English.
* If the sentence starts with the ‘IF’ clause, you need to put a comma between the two clauses. (- as I just did with this sentence which is First Conditional). When the ‘IF’ clause is at the beginning of the second clause, a comma is not necessary because the word ‘IF’ is a conjunction.
Test yourself with these online exercises at: http://www.ego4u.com/en/cram-up/grammar/conditional-sentences/type-2/exercises?02 and:
Now test yourself with the following First and Second Conditionals: