Now responsive website. The starting point for understanding.


We use the second/unreal conditional in the following ways:

1 to talk about things that are unlikely to happen in the future:

If I won the lottery, I would travel around the world. (but I don’t know if I will win the lottery)

2 to talk about improbable situations now or in the future:

If he wasn’t so angry, I would talk to him. (but he is angry, so I probably won’t)

We make the second/unreal conditional using this structure:

if + subject + simple past, subject + would/wouldn’t

With the verb to be, we can use either was or were after if. Were is considered more correct and more formal:

If it weren’t / wasn’t so cold, I’d go for a walk in the woods.

We do not normally use would in the if- clause, but we can use it if we are making a formal request:

If you would come with me, please, I’ll show you to the lecture hall.

We can also use the past progressive in the if- clause:

If the children were playing here, it wouldn’t be so quiet.

We can also use could or might in the main clause instead of would:

If we had a computer, we could do this much more quickly.

If you studied more, you might get better grades.


If can be replaced by in case in second/unreal conditional sentences, but is used rarely.

The conditional clause can come before or after the main clause.

Learning tip

Talk to your friends about what you would do if you won a million dollars.



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