We can use the Second Conditional to talk about 'impossible' situations.
- If I had one million dollars, I'd give a lot to charity.
- If there were no more hungry people in this world, it would be a much better place.
- If we were in New York today, we would be able to go to the free Elton John concert in Central Park.
Notice that after I / he/ she /it we
often use the subjunctive form 'were' and not 'was'. (Some people think
that 'were' is the only 'correct' form but other people think 'was' is
equally 'correct' .)
- If I were in Tokyo, I'd have sushi every day.
- If she were really happy in her job, she'd be working much harder.
- If IBM were to enter our market, we would have big problems.
Notice the form 'If I were you' which is often used to give advice.
- If I were you, I'd change my job.
- If I were you, I'd sign up for Pearson's fantastic English lessons.
We can also use the Second Conditional to talk about 'unlikely' situations.
- If I won the lottery, I'd buy my parents a big house.
- If I went to the moon, I'd bring back some moon rock.
- If you met him, you'd really like him.
Notice that the choice between the
first and the second conditional is often a question of the speaker's
attitude rather than of facts. For example, consider two people Peter
Pessimist and Otto Optimist.
- Otto – If I win the lottery, I'll buy a big house.
- Peter – If I won the lottery, I'd buy a big house.
- Otto – If I get promoted, I'll throw a big party.
- Peter – If I got promoted, I'd throw a big party.
- Otto – If my team win the Cup, I'll buy champagne for everybody.
- Peter – If my team won the Cup, I'd buy champagne for everybody.
Notice that the 'If clause' can contain the past simple or the past continuous.
- If I was still living in Brighton, I would commute by train.
- If they were thinking of coming, they would let us know.
- If she were coming, she would be here by now.
Notice that the main clause can contain 'would' 'could' or 'might.
- If I met him again, I wouldn't recognize him.
- If we met up for lunch one day, I could take you to that new restaurant.
- If I spoke to him directly, we might be able to reach an agreement.
Also notice that sometimes the 'if clause' is implied rather than spoken.
- What would I do without you? ("if you stopped working here")
- Where would I get one at this time of night? ("if I went looking for one")
- He wouldn't agree. ("if we asked him")