Unreal Conditionals Handout


The Second Conditional

The Second Conditional refers to an unreal (or very unlikely) situation in the PRESENT time. The most confusing thing about the second conditional is that we use the PAST TENSE in the "if" clause, even though we're referring to the PRESENT! Consider the following examples:

Okay, now that you understand that the PAST TENSE in the "if" clause refers to the PRESENT time, there is one other rule you should be aware of. (You will hear native speakers break this rule, but you should use it especially in formal speech and formal writing.) If the main verb in the "if" clause is "be," we use "were" with ALL subjects, including first and third person singular. (This is the subjunctive mood.) Consider the following examples:

The Third Conditional

The Third Conditional refers to an unreal situation in the PAST. In other words, it refers to something that did NOT happen in the past, though maybe it was once an option. The most confusing thing about the third conditional is that we use the PAST PERFECT in the "if" clause, even though we're referring to the PAST. Consider the following examples:

(Now that you know the rule for the third conditional, you should be aware that native speakers will sometimes break this rule. In informal conversation people might say, "If you would have gone to Mexico, you would have a tan.")

Related Articles

  • Second Conditional - Partner Activity - This is a fast fun way to pair students for another activity. The bonus is that they get extra exposure to the target structure. Just print this page, copy on to colored paper if you want, cut the...
  • Unreal Conditionals - Question Cards - See Ideas for Conversation Card Sets for activity suggestions. Press Control + P to print these out. What would your life be like if you had been born the opposite sex? What would you...
  • Unreal Conditionals - Scramble Sentences - See Ideas for Using Scrambled Sentences for activity suggestions. Press Control + P to print these out. If chickens had lips, then they'd ...
  • Modals of Inference - Partners Activity - This is a fast fun way to pair students for another activity. The bonus is that they get extra exposure to the target structure. Just print this page, copy on to colored paper if you want, cut the...
  • Modals - Conversation Question Cards - See Ideas for Using Conversation Card Sets for activity suggestions. Press Control + P to print these out. Can you do anything creative? For example, can you sing, dance, play a musical...
  • Noun Clauses - Error Correction - Work with a partner and decide if each sentence below is correct or incorrect. If the sentence is incorrect, correct it. That everyone here want to take a vacation is obvious. Our teacher...
  • Noun Clauses in Songs - Answer Key - Noun Clauses in Songs - Without Answers These sentences are taken from the lyrics of some current songs. Find and underline the noun clauses in these lyrics. There are a total of 20 noun...
  • Noun Clauses in Songs - These sentences are taken from the lyrics of some current songs. Find and underline the noun clauses in these lyrics. There are a total of 20 noun clauses. "Now I'm convinced the whole day long...
  • Noun Clauses - Scrambled Sentences - See Ideas for Using Scrambled Sentences -for activity suggestions. Press Control + P to print these out. I don't know why I keep ...
  • Nouns - Noncount and Quantifiers - Press Control + P to print these out. _____ 1. a speck of A. violence _____ 2. a strand of B. water _____ 3. a drop of C. advice _____ 4. a clap of D....
  • Nouns - Irregular Plurals: Tic Tac Toe - Press Control + P to print these out. Irregular Plurals--Tic Tac Toe people criterion mouse goose dwarf crisis analysis radius fish ...
  • Nouns - Count/Noncount and Irregular Plurals - Objective: to review count and noncount nouns and irregular plural forms Time: 25 minutes Directions: Print this page. Copy the words below on to colored paper or cardstock. Cut up the words. Each...
  • Passive Voice Race Game - Activity: Change to Passive Level: High-intermediate through advanced Preparation: around 5 minutes Time: 30 minutes Directions: Print this page. Fill in the blank spaces with the names of some...
  • Simple Past & Past Progressive - Scrambled Sentences - See Ideas for Using Scrambled Sentences for activity suggestions. Press Control + P to print these out. I was cooking dinner when my ...
  • Tense Review - Sentence Match - Level: High-intermediate through Advanced Preparation: 1 minute (Print this page. Cut the table into cards. Bring to class and use.) Objective: Students will recognize various verb...
  • Simple Present and Present Progressive Games and Activities - This long list of classroom ideas and resource material was originally created as part of a presentation I did for a MATESOL course at San Francisco State University. I have tried to cite and link...
  • Grammer: Teaching Page - Karin's ESL PartyLand Teaching Grammar Home Teachers Discussion E-mail Jobs & Employment Shop Cool Stuff Links Search the...
  • Teaching Grammar - Grammar: Teaching Page Karin's ESL PartyLand Teaching Grammar Home Teachers Discussion E-mail Jobs & Employment Shop ...