ESL Term:

Second Conditional

ESL/EFL Glossary: A Guide to applied linguistics terminology.


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second conditional:  This is an if/then statement about the consequence of an untrue, impossible, imaginary,  or improbable future event or action.

If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would quit my job. (improbable)

If I were invisible, I would play jokes on my friends. (imaginary)

If had a dollar for every time I heard that, I'd be rich. (untrue)

If +past tense, then + would + present tense.

The second conditional describes the consequence of an impossible or improbable if clause. This can be contrasted with the first conditional which describes the consequence of a possible or probable if clause.

Note: just by choosing to use the first or second conditonal you are making a statement about how likely you think an event is.


                If it snows tomorrow, we'll be stranded.

                If it snowed tomorrow, we would be stranded.

In the first conditional sentence, I think there is at least some chance that it will snow, at least enough to worry about. But in the second I think it is really unlikely to snow, and I am not even worried about it.

For another explanation of first and second conditionals please refer to

For more discussion of conditionals in this glossary see:

                                    zero conditional

                                    first conditional

                                    third conditional