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  • Learn English Second Conditionals with Help From Katie Melua

    One of the more difficult parts of English to learn are the conditionals. They test several areas of knowledge for students. Here is a basic guide to help you with them, and a Katie Melua song to help you remember.

    We use second conditionals (also called conditional type 2) to talk about unreal situations in the past or future. Some examples are:

    If I were you (I am not you and so this impossible).

    If I won the lottery (I have no ticket so this is impossible).

    The second conditional has two parts: an if clause and a main clause.

    When the if clause comes first, a comma is used. For example:

    If I won 20 million dollars, I would buy a private island.

    If I were you, I would go to Australia on holidays.

    However, when the if clause does not comes first, there is no need for a comma. For example:

    I would buy an island if I won 20 million dollars.

    I would go to Australia on holidays if I were you.

    Note that wherever they are placed in the sentence the structure of the clauses are always the same:

    If clause = if + subject + simple past verb.

    Main clause = subject + would + verb.

    Katie Melua uses many second conditionals in the lyrics for her song If I Were a Sailboat. Here are the lyrics below. Let’s read them and answer the following questions:

    How many different examples of second conditionals can you find in the lyrics?

    Why do you think the situations she lists can be considered for the second conditional tense?

    Here is the video for If You Were a Sailboat. Below you’ll find the lyrics.

     

    Katie Melua – If You Were A Sailboat

    Katie Melua

    If you were a cowboy I would trail you,
    If you were a piece of wood I’d nail you to the floor.
    If you were a sailboat I would sail you to the shore.
    If you were a river I would swim you,
    If you were a house I would live in you all my days.
    If you were a preacher I’d begin to change my ways.

    Sometimes I believe in fate,
    But the chances we create,
    Always seem to ring more true.
    You took a chance on loving me,
    I took a chance on loving you.

    If I was in jail I know you’d spring me,
    If I was a telephone you’d ring me all day long.
    If I was in pain I know you’d sing me soothing songs.

    Sometimes I believe in fate,
    But the chances we create,
    Always seem to ring more true.
    You took a chance on loving me,
    I took a chance on loving you.

    If I was hungry you would feed me,
    If I was in darkness you would lead me to the light.
    If I was a book I know you’d read me every night.

    If you were a cowboy I would trail you,
    If you were a piece of wood I’d nail you to the floor.
    If you were sailboat I would sail you to the shore.

    If you were sailboat I would sail you to the shore.

    If you were sailboat I would sail you to the shore.

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