Second Conditional English Grammar

The Second Conditional

Second conditional English grammar can help you to create more complex expressions. Improve your fluency and sophistication in English!

How do you form the second conditional tense in English?

Did you know there are three uses for it?

The second conditional requires us to construct a sentence in two parts.

The second conditional uses if then the past simple tense then ‘would’ and the infinitive:

  • if + past simple, …would + infinitive

(It is considered most correct to use ‘were’ instead of ‘was’ with ‘I’ and ‘he/she/it’. However, native speakers often say ‘was.’).

The second conditional tense has three uses.

Second conditional English Grammar for Future Improbability

First, we can use it to talk about things in the future that are probably not going to be true. It is unlikely but not entirely impossible. Maybe there is a 1% chance. For example, you want to talk about a dream you’re imagining.

  • If I won the lottery, I would buy a big house. (I probably won’t win the lottery)
  • He would travel all over the world if he were rich. (He is not rich, so he doesn’t travel the world)
  • She would pass the exam if she studied. (She does not study much, so this won’t happen)
  • If I had a million dollars, I would invest it wisely to make it last a long time!

Second conditional English Grammar for Present Impossibility

Second, we can use it to talk about something in the present which is impossible, because it’s not true. Let’s take a look at some examples to clarify:

  • If I had his number, I would call him. (I don’t have his number now, so it’s impossible for me to call him).
  • You would have more money if you did not spend it all on silly things.
  • If she had more free time, she would cook all her meals at home.

Second conditional English Grammar for Suggestions and Opinions

Third, we can use the second conditional to express our opinions – to give advice, suggestions and recommendations.

  • If I were you, I would not do business with that man.
  • would study harder if I were you.
  • If I *was you, I would buy some new socks.

Remember that the correct formation of the second conditional uses “were.” However, also remember that many native speakers use “was” instead.

How is this different from the first conditional?

This kind of conditional sentence is different from the first conditional because this is a lot more unlikely.

For example (second conditional): If I had enough money, I would buy a nice house by the ocean (I’m probably not going to have this much money anytime soon, it’s just a dream, not very real for now at least)

But (first conditional): If I have enough money, I’ll buy some new shoes (It’s much more likely that I’ll have enough money to buy some shoes)

Read more about advanced English grammar, including the conditional tenses:

The First Conditional Tense in English Grammar with Examples 

The Third Conditional Tense in English Grammar with Examples

“If I had been you” vs. “If I were you” vs. “If I was you” – Second and Third Conditional Tenses in English