Second Conditional


Here is a free lesson plan on the second conditional for ESL/EFL teachers. The lesson starts with a presentation of the grammar structure, and is then followed by some ideas on how to get your students to practise it. You don't need to do all the exercises consecutively over one lesson, some of them can be used to revise (or review, if you're American) the second conditional in follow up lessons. You will find a free downloadable printout of this lesson at the bottom of this page.

Grammar Presentation

These are things which are:

  1. Possible, but much less probable than First Conditional sentences.
  2. Unreal events

The grammar structure for the second conditional is as follows:

If + Past Simple + would,could,might
or Continuous + infinitive
Ifthere was a cheap holiday,I would buy it.
IfI won the lottery,I would give 50% to charity.
Ifyou made me a cake,I would eat it.
Ifbrussel sprouts were delicious,I would eat more of them eat it.
Ifthe earth were flat,we could fall of the edge.
Ifthe iPad were free,I would have one.

Would,might,could + if + Past Simple
+ infinitive or Continuous
I would go to Australiaifit wasn't so far away.
I would eat that muffinifit were mine.
I would live in a castleifI were rich.


The correct form of the verb ‘to be’ in the if-clause, is were, but was is also possible, and is often used in spoken English e.g. I would eat that muffin, if it were/was mine.

The Second Conditional is used for giving advice:

  • If I were you, I would resign.
  • If I were you, I would go to bed earlier.

Exercise 1 - Controlled Practice

Get the students to fill in the gaps with the correct form of the verb. You will find the answers in the Teacher's Notes in the Downloadable Lesson at the bottom of this page.

  1. If she_________ (make) more effort, I would ____________(consider) helping her.
  2. If electric cars didn’t ________(have) such large batteries, they would _________(be) quicker to drive.
  3. I wouldn’t __________(carry) my wallet around in my pocket if I ________(be) you.
  4. If I __________(train) properly, I could ___________(run) a marathon.
  5. I would _________(go) on a diet if I _________(be) overweight.
  6. If I ________(have) a garden, I would __________(grow) roses.
  7. Would you __________(be) surprised if it ___________(snow) in July?
  8. If I ________(know) his number, I could _________(give) him a call.
  9. You would _________(get) better results, if you __________(work) harder.
  10. If I ___________(have) more spare time, I would __________(write) a book.

Exercise 2 - Free Practice

Write the following phrases onto flashcards:

  • If I had more money….
  • If I had more time……
  • If I were an alien……..
  • If I were you…….
  • If I lived in the country…….
  • If you were me,………..?

Place the flashcards face down on the table, and get the students to pick one up, and complete the sentence in their own words.

Exercise 3

Give the students blank flashcards. On each of their flashcards they need to write the first clause of a second conditional sentence. Once they have all completed this task, place the flashcards face down on the table. The students need to take it in turns to pick one up, and complete the sentences in their own words.

Exercise 4

You are going to give the students the first clause of one second conditional sentence. The first student has to complete that sentence in their own words. The next student has to take the second clause from the first student's sentence, and change it into the first clause of another sentence, and complete that sentence. The next student continues in the same way e.g.

I would be happy if ……

  • First student: I would be happy if it was sunny every day.
  • Second student: If it were sunny every day, I would want to spend every day at the beach.
  • Third student: If I spent every day at the beach, I would be good at surfing.
  • Fourth student: If I were good at surfing, I would go to international competitions.
  • etc etc

Some potential starters:

  • I would be happy if …….
  • If I lived in the country ……
  • If I had more money I would ……

Exercise 5

Meet Jane and John. They are about to get married, but John has arrived at the wedding looking like this. Get the students to make sentences describing what John would have to do, to make Jane happier about his appearance e.g.

  • If he took off his sunglasses, he would look much better.
  • Jane would really appreciate it if John shaved.

Exercise 6

Get the students to answer the following questions:

  1. What historical period would you travel to if you could travel to any time at all?
  2. Who would you want to meet if you could meet anyone at all – past or present?
  3. If you could change the history syllabus at school, what would you do?
  4. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
  5. If you had one wish, what would it be?
  6. If you could go (or go back) to university, what would you study?

Free Downloadable Lesson Plan


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