If I were rich, I would travel the world. I’m sure you have said this sentence at some point in your life. If you have, I have good news! You already know how to form a sentence in the second conditional, my friend. The second and third conditionals in English grammar are used to talk about present or future situations that are not very likely to happen. Besides that, we also use these structures to describe imaginary or hypothetical situations in the future and in the present. Keep reading to learn the rules and practice with some examples. 

Talking about impossible situations in the present or unlikely scenarios in the future 

  • If I had a lot of money, I would buy an apartment. 
  • If I won the lottery, I would quit my job. 

These two examples are great to understand what we call the second conditional. We use the second conditional to talk about situations in the future that are probably not going to happen, just like the examples above. In addition to that, w also use it to talk about hypothetical scenarios in the present that are impossible because they aren’t true. Here are two examples: 

  • If I were you, I would go on a date with him. 
  • If I knew her name, I would tell you. 

Check out this video for more information about the second conditional.

win the lottery
If I won the lottery, I would quit my job. 

Using was or were with the second conditional 

As you’ve seen above, we use were instead of was when the verb in the if-clause is the verb to be. We do that for the subjects Ihesheor it. Here are two examples: 

  • If she were my sister, I would not let her travel by herself. 
  • I wouldn’t go back to your ex-husband if I were you. 
traveling alone
If she were my sister, I would not let her travel by herself. 

You may hear people use was in these grammatical structures, but we recommend using were because it’s more proper. 

Sentence structure of the second conditional in English 

Now, what’s the sentence structure we follow when using the second conditional? If you don’t know, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. There are two ways we can structure a sentence in the second conditional: 

If + past simple + comma (,) + would + infinitive 

Examples:  

  • If I knew how to drive, I would go on a road trip across the USA. 
  • If I lived in New Zealand, I would be happy. 

Subject + would + infinitive + if + past simple 

Examples:  

  • I would be the happiest man on earth if I got married to Joanna. 
  • Julie would move to New York City if she knew how to speak English. 
move to a new city
Julie would move to New York City if she knew how to speak English. 

Talking about scenarios that didn’t happen in the past and imagining the possible results 

We use the third conditional to talk about something that didn’t happen in the past and imagine the possible outcomes of that situation. Here are a few examples: 

  • If I had studied more, I would have been accepted to Yale University. 
  • You wouldn’t have overslept if you had gone to bed earlier.
yale university
If I had studied more, I would have been accepted to Yale University. 

Sentence structure of the third conditional in English 

Now, let’s take a look at the sentence structure we use with the third conditional: 

If + past perfect + comma (,) + would + have + past participle

Examples: 

  • If you had called me earlier, I would have picked you up at the airport. 
  • If it hadn’t rained all week, we would have gone to the beach on the weekend. 

Subject + would + have + past participle + if + past perfect 

Examples: 

  • My dad would have traveled to Argentina with me if he hadn’t lost his passport. 
  • Mary would have gone to the party if her car hadn’t broken down
car broke down
Mary would have gone to the party if her car hadn’t broken down
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Practice the second and third conditionals

Here is an exercise for you to practice using this grammar.  

Check out more information about zero and first conditionals in English.

We hope this blog post about second and third conditionals in English helps you use them better. I am sure that if you practice, you will master this topic! Happy studying!