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Second conditional


Introduction


We use the second conditional to describe a situation in the present that is not real and the result if we imagine it is real.

    If I took the bus, I would arrive at 7pm.     
Examples:

Form - conditional and main clause


We form the second conditional with a conditional clause and a main clause:
The order of the clauses does not matter: the meaning is the same.

If we put the conditional clause before the main clause, we use a comma:

Conditional clause Main clause
"If" + past simple + comma "would" + infinitive (without "to")
If I took the bus, I would arrive at 7pm.
If I owned that house, I would paint it a different colour.
If I lived in Italy, I would learn to cook Italian food.
If you were me, would you take the train or the bus?
If Tom were rich, he would buy an expensive car.

We do not use a comma if we put the main clause before the conditional clause:

Main clause Conditional clause
"would" + infinitive (without "to") "if" + past simple
I would arrive at 7pm if I took the bus.
I would paint that house a different colour if I owned it.
I would learn to cook Italian food if I lived in Italy.
Would you take the train or the bus if you were me?
Tom would buy an expensive car if he were rich.


Practice

Complete the sentences to form the second conditional with the correct form of the verb in brackets:

  • If I to London, I would go to St. Paul’s cathedral. (go)
     
  • Jack and Emily would get a cat if they near a busy road. (not live)
     
  • I'd you to the Lake District if you came to London. (take)
     
  • If I gave you £100, what would you with it? (do)
     

Further practice

Complete the sentences by choosing the correct answer from a, b, c or d:



Check my answers

Use of "could", "might"


We can use "could" or "might" instead of "would" in the main clause of the second conditional.

If Tom were rich, he would buy an expensive car.



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