Do we always use could would in conditional sentences?

1.I would love to go there.

2.It could rain.

3.That would be Daniel.

Are all the above sentences 2nd conditionals?

How to distinguish between indicative and subjunctive (conditional) sentences?

  • The "conditional" in #3 is usually just a kind of affectation (perhaps reflecting slight uncertainty or "polite deference / hesitancy" on the part of the speaker). If said after hearing the doorbell ring, for example, it basically just means That is Daniel (or perhaps That will be Daniel, once you open the door to make certain, for a sort of "half-way house" between the bald assertion is and the deferential suggestion would be). Commented Sep 27, 2021 at 12:27

1 Answer 1


Most grammarians nowadays would avoid using the term "subjunctive" for "would", "could". That aside...

  1. "I would love" and "I would like" are just conventional formulas for expressing desire. It would be possible to understand "I would love to go there" as short for "I would love to go there [if I could]", which would be a second conditional. But when someone says "I would like a glass of water", should we also imagine an implicit subordinate clause ("if I could have one", "if you don't mind giving me one") there, too? It seems rather artificial, given that expressions with "I want..." and "I desire..." carry very similar meaning (even if less politely).

  2. "It could rain" expresses a possibility rather than a certainty, just as "It might rain" or "It may rain" does. We don't refer to it as a conditional nor (in modern grammar) as a subjunctive. But we say that the modal verb "could" is being used to express modality (this is a broader term than traditional grammatical mood).

  3. "That would be Daniel". Not a conditional. There is no "if", implicit or otherwise. It is just one of the conventional uses of "would", and mirrors a similar use of "will" ("That will be Daniel").

The term "second conditional" is used in EFL/ESL to refer to a complete sentence of the type "If [subject] [verb in the past tense] (then) [subject] would+[bare infinitive]". None of your examples match those criteria, although (1) could be understood that way, as I've outlined.

For modality, see here:

Modality is about a speaker’s or a writer’s attitude towards the world. A speaker or writer can express certainty, possibility, willingness, obligation, necessity and ability by using modal words and expressions.

On modal verbs:

We use modals to show if we believe something is certain, possible or impossible... We also use them to do things like talk about ability, ask permission, and make requests and offers.

The term "mood" suggests a small number of moods distinguished by inflection (changing the form of the verb). In English, modality is often indicated through auxiliaries instead - hence the term "modal verbs".

  • Modals in English have two sets of meanings: deontic ones, which convey things like "It is possible/probable/necessary" and epistemic ones, that express the speaker's knowledge, so they can be paraphrased as "I know/conclude/am sure". Your 3. is an epistemic would: it can be paraphrases as "I conclude that that is Daniel".
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Sep 27, 2021 at 13:16

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