Sunday, 7 February 2016

Learning English: The Second Conditional

Learning English: The Second Conditional

The Second Conditional...

There are many grammar forms in the English language and learning them can be quite tricky. Below you're going to see an explanation of the second conditional. I am an English teacher and this is designed to help my students and anyone else who wishes to learn English, or indeed know English grammar better :)
The second conditional is used to describe something that is unreal, unlikely, a dream or even impossible, such as:
"If I were a sheep, I would love standing in a field all day"
I am not a sheep, just in case you wondered; therefore the conditional is unreal. Just because the second conditional uses the past tense, do not think it is referring to the past. The second conditional is used to talk about the future.

A radiator (The heating)

How's it formed?

Well the second conditional is formed like this:
If + past, would + infinitive without to
"If it got colder tonight, I would turn on the heating"
so: if + got, would + turn
Here the meaning of the sentence implies that the speaker does not believe it will actually get colder tonight, so the speaker is probably in summer.
Notice that there is a comma (,) after If + past.
When you put the 'if clause' first you must use a comma, but if you switch them you do not use a comma. Let me show you:
"If it got colder tonight, I would turn on the heating"
"I would turn on the heating if it got colder tonight"
Notice in the second sentence there is no comma. Also see here it is talking about the future again.

Can I only use 'would' with the second conditional?

No, you have many different options, with many different meanings, as with the other conditionals and you can see an explanation by clicking on the link here:

If I were? Is it not If I was?
Well actually both 'If I were' and 'If I was' are fine, but the English tend to say 'If I were...'
The only reason people can think of for this being the case is the fact that it just sounds a little bit sweeter.
I always say 'If I were you, I would go and see 'The Wolf of Wall Street' tonight"
There is nothing wrong with saying if I was, but I always say to my students "just think, what would Beyonce do?" and then I play them her song "If I were a boy" (were, not was)
There are a few examples of songs using this such as "One of us" by Joan Osbourne and "If I were a rich a man" from the musical 'Fiddler on the Roof'
A chicken cat... or a chickat
A chicken cat... or a chickat

When can I use it?

Well the second conditional has a few uses, but you must remember it refers to the future -
"If I were you, I would go to the park" (unreal) In this situation we use it to give advice. Quite often people just say "I'd go to the park" missing off the 'if clause' to make a suggestion.
"You would miss me if I left" (This is not going to happen)
"If a cat gave birth to a chicken, it would be weird" (this is impossible)
To see more about how it can be used to make suggestions, click here

Beyonce - If I were a boy (An example of a song using the second conditional)

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