General English Level 4 V 3
UNIT 03 Dreams and plans TOPIC 03 Maybe
LANGUAGE FOCUS 03 The second conditional
In this activity we look at the structure and use of the second conditional.


Jin Hee says:
Jin Hee:
If I had more information about the centre, it would be easier to decide.

It is difficult for Jin Hee to decide what to do because she doesn't have enough information. Jin Hee wishes her situation was different. She says, "If I had more information…".
She uses a second conditional sentence. We use the second conditional to talk about imagined (not real) events. These events might happen or might not.


Jin Hee says:
Jin Hee:
Yeah, that's a good idea but I don't want Harry to know about it. If he knew, he wouldn't be very happy.

Jin Hee doesn't want Harry to know about her idea to move the class. She is not going to tell him. She talks about a situation that is unlikely to happen, "If he knew…". We can use the second conditional to talk about unlikely future events.

We make a second conditional sentence by using two clauses.

conditional clause main clause
If + the past simple tense,
If I had more information,
+ would + verb
it would be easier to decide.

We can also start the second conditional with the main clause.

Find out how to do this.


In the if clause of a second conditional sentence, we usually use a comma to separate the two clauses. When we start the sentence with the main clause, we don't usually need to use a comma.

If I had a lot of money, I'd (I would)
be able to buy a house.
you won the lottery, you'd
she saved for ten years, she'd
he moved to the country, he'd
they sold their business, they'd


I'd (I would)
be able to buy a house if I had a lot of money.
You'd you won the lottery.
She'd she saved for ten years.
He'd he moved to the country.
They'd they sold their business.


1 Read the examples.
2 Listen to the examples.
3 Practise saying each example. Use the Pause button.
If I had a car, I'd drive you to the airport. But I don't have a car. Sorry!
You would feel better if you did more exercise. You need to come to the gym with me.
She would be very happy if you bought her that dress.
If he went to Japan, he wouldn't understand anything. He needs to study Japanese.
We'd come if we weren't busy. We have to work next Sunday.
If they flew, they would get there quicker. But they want to save money so they are going to drive.



Steve says:
Well, if I were you, I'd speak to Jenny at the council…

In the if clause of the second conditional we sometimes use were instead of was, especially after 'I'. This is correct grammar. However, in everyday conversation it is okay to use 'was' - "If I was you..", " If I was asked..".

Look at these examples.

If I were the president I would spend more money on education.
If she were older she would know better.
If I were asked for my advice, I would tell her to move her class.


Steve says:
Hey, have you thought about teaching two classes? If you taught two classes, you could have one at the new centre and …


Steve talks about what Jin Hee would be able to do. In the main clause of the second conditional we can use could + verb. could = would be able to.


If I had more time I could help you.
If she moved to the city she could get a better job.


Now go to 04 WRITING The second conditional.


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