if-clause type 2 (second conditional)

(Explanation of conditional sentences type 2 in English)

Table of contents – second conditional

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Use of the second conditional sentence
  2. Form of the second conditional sentence
  3. Further explanations and exercises

When is the second conditional sentence (if-clause type 2) used?

In general, we use conditional sentences for ideas or situations that depend on another. They are, therefore, subject to a condition. In particular, the second conditional sentence, which is also often called if-clause type 2, is used in the following cases:

  • Examples of using the second conditional sentence
    • … for circumstances that could occur due to a condition (which is more likely not to be met or impossible to meet):
      • If I won the lottery, I would go on a trip around the world.”
        • The condition (lottery win) could be met but is improbable.
      • Would you jump out of a plane if you had a parachute?”
        • The situation is unreal and is unlikely to happen.
      • If I had wings, I would fly away.”
        • The condition (having wings) is fictitious and cannot be fulfilled.
    • … to give advice. In this case, we use the phrase ‘if I were you’ (subjunctive) in the if-part:
      • If I were you, I would do it.”
      • “I wouldn’t be so worried if I were you.”
  • In order to select the appropriate if-sentence, please refer to the comparison chart of the conditionals.

How is the second conditional sentence (if-clause type 2) formed?

Basically, a conditional sentence always consists of two clauses. One of them (the subordinate clause) usually starts with the word ‘if’ and specifies the condition while the other one (the main clause) returns the result. It does not matter which of the two clauses begins the complex sentence; however, in case ‘if’ is at the beginning, a comma must be placed between the two for separation. In particular, it is as follows:

Rule for the formation of the second conditional (if-clause type 2)

if’ + past simple or past continuous, clause with present conditional simple or present conditional continuous

Additional examples

Be aware that the subordinate clause can appear at the beginning or at the end of the complex sentence:

  • If I had the opportunity, I’d leave.”
    • This sentence needs a comma for separation, as ‘if’ is at the beginning of the sentence.
  • “I’d leave if I had the opportunity.”
    • Here, no comma is necessary because ‘if’ appears in the second clause.

Further explanations relating to the ‘Second conditional (if-clause type 2)’

The following explanations relate to the topic ‘Using the second conditional sentence (if-clause type 2)’ and could also be interesting: