The second conditional

In English, we have various ways to express different types of conditions and their results. In this post, we will dive into the second conditional, understand its structure, explore examples, and highlight key points to remember.

What is the second conditional?

The second conditional is used to talk about unreal situations in the present or future and their potential results. It focuses on events or conditions that are unlikely or contrary to reality. 


The second conditional consists of two clauses: the "if" clause (conditional clause) and the main clause. The conditional clause ("if" clause) introduces the condition or the unreal situation. It begins with the word "if" followed by a subject and a verb in the past simple tense. The main clause expresses the result of the condition mentioned in the conditional clause. It typically starts with a subject + "would" followed by the base form of the verb.

Here's the general structure of the second conditional:

If + subject + past simple verb, subject + would + base form of the verb


  • If I won the lottery, I would buy a big house.
  • If they invited me, I would attend their party.
  • If I were taller, I would reach the top shelf easily.

The order of the clauses does not affect the meaning of the sentence.

  • I would travel the world if I had more money.
  • She would be happier if she lived close to her family.
  • I would be a better basketball player if I were taller.

The only difference is the punctuation between the clauses. When the "if" clause comes first, we need to use a comma after the "if" clause. When the main clause comes first, we do not need a comma.

Key points to remember:

  1. The second conditional is used for hypothetical or unreal situations in the present or future.
  2. Use the past simple tense for the "if" clause and "would" + base form of the verb for the main clause.
  3. The "if" clause can be first or second in the sentence. A comma is only used when the if clause is first.

Second conditional