English Corner – Second and Third Conditionals

To follow up on the previous article about the ‘Zero and First Conditionals’, it’s important to continue on with the ‘conditionals’ unit to explain the second and third conditionals as well. In order to fully understand conditionals, we need to know every type of conditional, and when and why do we use them in sentences. If you’re struggling with the second and third conditionals, it’s important to learn how to form either conditional in terms of its’ structure, and then learn how to use the conditionals by following the examples that I will be creating for you.

Let’s begin with the 2nd conditional first. As always, the second conditional is going to start with the word ‘If’ as is the case with the zero and first conditional. However, the second conditional focuses mainly on the ‘past simple’ grammatical tense, and how to make the second conditional compatible with expressing what you would do in the past if something were to have happened to you. Usually, the second conditional is good for talking about things in the future that are probably not going to become true.

It’s also used secondly for occurrences going on in the present, which are considered to be impossible or unfeasible because they are not true. The second conditional usually expresses desires, wants, and needs that are more unrealistic and unlikely than those that would be expressed in the first conditional. Also, with the second conditional, you’re going to focus on the past simple tense rather than the present simple tense to go along with the ‘If’ + the subject of the sentence. In order to get a better idea of the 2nd conditional, let us take a look at a few examples of this conditional in action.

Examples:

‘Talking about the future’

  • He would travel to Japan if he had the money.
  • If they did their homework earlier, they would have went to the movies.
  • If I won the Powerball lottery, I would have bought my parents a nice house.

‘Talking about impossibilities in the present’

  • If I were you, I wouldn’t do that.
  • If you had studied harder for the exam, you would have done better.

The main thing to remember about the 2nd conditional is the unlikeliness of something to happen in the future or in the present. You’re also referring to an unlikely possibility in the past to discuss what is not realistic in happening in the future.

Last but not least, it’s important to know about the third conditional in terms of its’ formation, usage, and examples. It’s a very simple formula when it comes to creating the third conditional. While the second conditional focuses on ‘If’ + past simple, the third conditional focuses on a formula of ‘If’ + past perfect à would + have + past participle’ in order to create a complete sentence.

When we use the third conditional in a sentence, we talk mainly about the past as well as to discuss a situation that didn’t really happen. We can also imagine the hypothetical results of a situation that didn’t actually occur, but that we would like to think about the possibility of. It’s important to remember that the ‘past participle’ is often added to the second part of a third conditional sentence, and can be switched to the first part of the sentence as long as the ‘if’ remains part of the other half of the conditional sentence.

Examples:

  • If I hadn’t eaten so much candy on Halloween, I wouldn’t have gotten sick.
  • She would have become a doctor if she had been able to afford medical school.
  • If we had taken the subway, we would have arrived at the airport earlier.
  • If they had been telling the truth about the food fight, they wouldn’t have gotten in trouble with the school principal.
  • If he had showed up for the job interview on time, he would have been hired on the company.

When it comes to any conditional whether its’ the zero, first, second, or third, it’s important to take the time to really study this grammatical concept. You need to put in the time and the effort to study the formula, the usage, and practice with some example problems in order to memorize how to create the sentence. There are plenty of ways to practice the conditional sentences, and it’s important to study this concept consistently in order to master it.

 

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