In some cases, the explanation of the second conditional says “condition in theory possible to fulfill” 1, other explanation says “unreal or improbable situation now or in the future” 2. Based on that, is the second condition something possible or not?

When I say: If he studied he would pass the exam.

Am I saying that he passes the exam is something unlikely? or, he could pass the exam but I don't have the certainty that he will study (maybe he is or is not interested in passing the exam).

1 Answer 1


The implication of "If he studied he would pass the exam." is that I consider the condition to be unlikely. It is a "hypothetical" situation.

John is a very lazy boy. He just plays on his phone all day. If he studied he would pass the exam. He is not stupid! He is just lazy.

In this example you can see that I think it is unlikely that John will study. Logically I don't say if it likely for John to pass, but pragmatically I am suggesting that I think he will fail unless he stops being lazy.

But in most contexts it is not unlikely that someone will study, so usually I wouldn't use the second conditional.

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