Second conditional – table
If clause and main clause
We use if + past to talk about an imaginary present or future situation (although the verb is in past, the meaning is present or future). And we use would + infinitive to talk about the result or consequence of that imaginary situation.
- If we had a mansion in the country, we’d go there every weekend.
- Would you travel around the world if you won the lottery?
When the if clause comes first, we normally put a comma after it. We don’t use a comma when the main clause comes first and the if clause comes second.
- If I won the lottery, I’d buy a mansion.
- I’d buy a mansion if I won the lottery.
Would/wouldn’t is the same for all persons.
- I/you/he/she/it/we/they would/wouldn’t do that if it was possible.
Contracted forms are wouldn’t= would not and ‘d= would
- I‘d never tell anyone if you told me your secret.
- I wouldn’t tell anyone if you told me your secret.
We can often use could + infinitive instead of would + infinitive in the main clause.
- If you spoke English, you could get a better job.
was or were?
In the second conditional we can use if I/he/she/it were (more formal) instead of if I/he/she/it was.
- If I were/was fit, I would run a marathon.
- We wouldn’t have any problems if he were/was more reasonable.
But we use were (NOT was) when we give advice with the expression if I were you.
- If I were you, I would stay home and rest.
- I wouldn’t pay any attention to what he says if I were you.
First conditional vs second conditional
We use the first conditional to talk about possible future situations and we use the second conditional to talk about hypothetical or imaginary future situations.
- If I don’t have a meeting tomorrow morning, I’ll have lunch with you. (It’s possible. Maybe I don’t have a meeting.)
- If I didn’t have a meeting tomorrow morning, I’d have lunch with you. (It’s hypothetical. I have a meeting tomorrow, so I won’t be able to have lunch with you.)