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What would you do if you saw a bear in the forest?

People love talking about hypothetical situations. For situations that we consider unlikely (we don’t think they will happen), we use the second conditional. I love teaching this form as my students use it so often in our conversation classes.

Forming the second conditional

If + past simple, would + inf

Option 1

If I saw a bear, I would talk loudly to try to scare it away.

Option 2

I would talk loudly if I saw a bear.

The tricky bit

The bit that is tricky for students is using the past simple in the if clause. Our brains don't like the idea of using a past tense to talk about the future, but that's the way we form the second conditional in English. Because it seems counter-intuitive, it needs a lot of practice.

How to practice the second conditional

How many questions can you think of to practice using the second conditional? If you need some help, look at a list of verbs in one of your course books and choose some past simple forms to use with the if clause. Of course you can also use regular verbs.

Infinitive Past simple

lose lost

find found

see saw

tell told

break broke

want wanted

These can be used to make questions like the following:

1. What would you do if you lost your phone?

2. What would you do if you found £100

3. What would you do if you saw a bear in the forest?

4. What would you do if someone broke your favourite cup?

5. What would you say if your best friend told you that she was moving away?

6. How would you feel if you failed your driving test?

You can also make sentences using negative forms.

1. What would you do if your children didn’t do their homework?

2. How would Sarah feel if Jack didn’t feed her cat.

3. How would the cats feel if Jack didn’t feed them?

Remember to make full sentences for your answers so that you can practice both parts of the sentence.

Do you want to learn more about grammar? Click here to go to the grammar index.

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