The Second Conditional – Form and Use

The second conditional is used to talk about things that probably will not happen in the future. Instead of discussing a realistic situation we are imagining a hypothetical one.

If I got a pay rise, I would buy a new car. (I probably won’t get a pay rise, I’m just imagining it)
I would look for a new job if the company went bankrupt. (The company probably won’t go bankrupt)

The second conditional is also used to talk about unrealistic, imaginary situations in the present.

If I were you, I would ask for a pay rise. (I’m not you, this is just hypothetical.)
He would travel around the world, if he were younger. (He is not young, this is just imaginary.)

Note, that in the second conditional we can use “were” instead of “was” with “I”, “he”, “she”, and “it”. This happens mostly in formal speech and writing.

To form the second conditional we use the past simple in the “if” clause and would and the infinitive in the result clause.

[Condition] + [Result]
[If + past simple] + [would + infinitive]

If I were you, I would come to the meeting earlier.

[Result] + [Condition]
[Would] + infinitive] + [if + past simple]

We would consider renegotiating the contract if we had more time.