Ok, I know that in 2nd cond. you use simple past in your sentence and perfect past is used when saying that something had happened before something else happened, but is it correct to say this? :

  • If you realized while on your way to a concert that you had left the ticket in your living room, what would you do?

I instictively wrote that down because I was trying to communicate that the act of leaving the key happened before the act of realizing. But I'm not sure because I've never seen Perfect Past in a 2nd Cond. sentence before.

  • 'If you realized while on your way to a concert that you were going to arrive after the performance, what would you do?' has 'were going to' signifying future-in-the-past. The that-clause licensed by realise can comprise various temporal constructions. // If you want to understand the general view on ELU of the 'four conditionals' model often taught as fact, do an in-house search. I think tchrist has identified 250+ different conditional structures to date. Commented Apr 7, 2021 at 10:41
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    Like most native speakers, I don't see much point in assigning numbers to a few of the more common conditional contexts, and then trying to remember which combination of verb tenses goes with each such number. In the cited context, all that matters is the act of leaving home without the tickets came before the act of realizing this. I assume that embedded "while" clause isn't part of the definition of a "2nd Cond. sentence" (which I'm supposing can be completely encapsulated by a much simpler sentence, such as If you lost your way, what would you do?). Commented Apr 7, 2021 at 11:12
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    The actual conditional here is If you realized [this], what would you do? The other verbs in this sentence aren't taking part in the conditional construction, but are subclauses, so aren't governed by the rules for the tense of the conditional. [There's a side issue that tenses in English conditionals are much more flexible than the four conditionals taught in ESL classes, but that's not the issue here.] Commented Apr 7, 2021 at 11:14
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    Isn't this the long-awaited 7th conditional? Commented Apr 7, 2021 at 17:50
  • Conditionals are as conditional do if boys will be boys. OP: Nice sentence.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 7, 2021 at 15:06

1 Answer 1


You talk about the third conditional We use second conditional with simple past tense not past perfect.

If you had studied harder, you would have passed the exam.

If it hadn’t rain, we wouldn’t have stayed at home.

You wouldn’t have forgotten your anniversary if you had noted.

Peter's answer got the point here. The original form of that sentence is actually:

If you realized ................, what would you do?

and this is second conditional with simple past tense.

  • But the OP's example is a perfectly acceptable Second Conditional. Peter Shor got it right in the comments.
    – rjpond
    Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 5:47
  • Exactly That's the second conditional, actually, the sentence would be like that If you realized ................, what would you do? I've just noticed that
    – Mahir B.
    Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 6:17
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    Mahir: If it hadn't rained...in any case.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 7, 2021 at 15:07
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    – cigien
    Commented Nov 7, 2021 at 17:17

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