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20. Conditionals 2


1 Introduction

Rachel: Would you like some cake, Jessica?
Jessica: No thanks. If I ate cake, I'd get fat.
Rachel: But it's delicious.
Jessica: It looks delicious. If I had your figure, I'd eat the whole lot.
I ate cake and I had your figure are imaginary or unreal situations.
Jessica isn't going to eat the cake, and she hasn't got a figure like Rachel's.

2 Second Conditional: If I ate cake, I'd get fat

Note the Past Simple (e.g. ate). We do not use would in the if-clause. NOT If I'd eat cake.
But we can use would in the if-clause when we make a request.
If you'd like to come this way, the doctor will see you now. (= Please come this way .. . )

As well as the Past Simple we ca n use the Past Continuous (e.g. was doing) in the if-clause.
If Rachel was playing her stereo, it wouldn't be so quiet in here.
In a Second Conditional if-clause we sometimes use were instead of was, especially in the clause if I were you.
If Rachel were playing her stereo, it wouldn't be so quiet in here.
If I were you, I'd ask a lawyer for some advice.

The main clause often has would. We can also use could or might.
If we had a calculator, we could work this out a lot quicker.
If Rachel worked harder, she might do even better at her studies.

The if-clause usually comes first, but it can come after the main clause.
If I knew, I'd tell you. / I'd tell you if I knew.

3 First and Second Conditionals

Compare these examples.
First: If you have a lie-down, you'll feel better.
Second: If I had a million pounds, I'd probably buy a yacht.
The present tense (have) refers to a possible future action, something which mayor may not happen.
The past tense (had) refers to something unreal. If I had a million pounds means that I haven't really got a million pounds, but I am imagining that I have. Compare these examples.
First: If we take the car, we'll have to pay for parking.
Second: If we took the car, we'd have to pay for parkillg.
Here both sentences refer to a possible future action. But in the Second Conditional, the action is less probable. If we took the car may mean that we have decided not to take it.

We can use Second Conditionals in offers and suggestions.
If you needed a ticket, I could get you one.
If you felt like seeing the sights, we could take a bus tour.
The Second Conditional is less direct than the First Conditional. The speaker is less sure that you want to see the sights.

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