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We use would + infinitive without to in the main clause of the second/unreal conditional to talk about possible results of an uncertain situation:

I wouldn’t have to work hard if I was rich.

What would you do if you lost your passport?

We use would have + past participle in the main clause of the third/unreal conditional to talk about the theoretical results of a situation that did not happen:

I would have taken a picture of the Loch Ness monster if I had seen it.

If I had lived a hundred years ago, I wouldn’t have traveled by air.


In informal writing and spoken English we often use the short form ‘d.

Learning tip

Look at the lyrics of your favorite songs and try to find phrases with would in the second and the third conditionals in them.

I’d rather be a sparrow than a snail… (El Condor Pasa).

No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that… (War of the Worlds).



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

1 to talk about unreal past possibilities:

If the weather had been nice yesterday, we would have gone swimming. (but the weather was not nice)

2 to express regrets about the past:

If I hadn’t missed the bus, I would have arrived early. (I regret missing the bus)

We make the third/unreal conditional using this structure:

if + subject + past perfect, subject + would have

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

If I had had my cell phone with me, I could have called the police.

If the dog hadn’t barked, the thief might have escaped.

Learning tip

Talk to your friends about things in the past you would have done differently.


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.