Explanations » B1 Grammar Explanations » Second conditional – unreal situations
Exercises Explanation Downloads
  • Second conditional – Grammar chart

    Second conditional - grammar chart

    Download full-size image from Pinterest

    If clause and main clause

    We use if + past tense to talk about an imaginary present or future situation (although the verb is in the past, the meaning is present or future). And we use wouldinfinitive 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. 

    Unless = if (not)

    We can also use unless in conditional sentences to mean if … (not)

    • I wouldn’t live in a big city unless I had a lot of money.
    • = I wouldn’t live in a big city if I didn’t have a lot of money.

    Would, could, might

    In the main clause, we can use could or might instead of would.

    • If there was a fire, it would be difficult to escape.
    • If you were a bit taller, you could be a basketball player.
    • We might save enough money if we both worked overtime.

    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 (spoken English).

    • 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.