TOEIC Grammar Basics - The 2nd Conditional

ScottsEnglishScottsEnglish Administrator Posts: 1,060 admin ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭

What is the 2nd conditional in English?

The second conditional form is used to express something that is possible but not probable. Like all conditional forms, it contains an "if" clause and a "then" clause.

For example, "If I had the tools, (then) this job would go faster." Meaning, the tools exist, I have the chance to buy them (possible), but because I don't have them right now, the job will be slow (not probable). 

The "if" clause uses the simple past; while the "then" clause uses "would + verb".

"If she knew the answer, she would tell you." Meaning, she sometimes knows that answers (possible) , but in this case, she does not know it (not probable). Next time, she might know it and can tell you (probable - 1st conditional).

A very common usage of the 2nd conditional is the expression, "If I were you". 

"If I were you, I wouldn't buy that brand of telephone." While this might seem impossible (I cannot be you and you cannot be me), the actual meaning is "if I were in your placeI would / could / might / should + verb". 

"If I had 20 dollars more, then I could buy a new speaker." Meaning, I don't at the moment have 20 dollars more (not probable), I will be paid next week and then I can buy a new speaker (possible). 

Notice that the word "could" replaces the word "would". It is possible to use any past tense modal - although the most commonly used is "would". Also, the word "then" is optional in conditional sentences. We at Scott's English Success recommend that you write it in your formal writing, though.
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