Do both conditionals and Subjunctive mood overlap each other at some point or are they just different concepts?

For example: If we started now we would be in time. (subjunctive mood)

The above sentence is also a 2nd type conditional. So I was wondering, what is the difference between both concepts ?

  • I started answering, but then realized that I wasn't answering the question asked... Sorry. I think the answer is that Second Conditionals are formed using subjunctive mood of the verb, which is either a special form of the word (like 'were' even for singular 'to be') or 'would'+infinitive. That's the relationship between them. Just different concepts. Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 17:50
  • I'm not sure what you mean. That sentence is a 2nd type conditional, thus it is about the present/near future, and the conditions are unlikely to be/become true. There isn't really any other possible interpretation. Also Modern English doesn't really have a subjunctive mood, aside from the "If I were" idiom. Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 14:14

1 Answer 1


To answer your questions:

  1. Do both conditionals and subjunctive mood overlap each other at some point?
    Yes, they do. Both the second and third conditional overlap with the subjunctive mood and its unreal state.

  2. What is the difference between a second or third conditional and subjunctive mood?
    While second and third conditionals are only capable of expressing unreal states in the present and the past, respectively; the subjunctive can further express such things as a wish, emotion, opinion, obligation, importance, and so on.

These descriptions can be a bit daunting to parse, so let's take your example and demonstrate them.

  • First Conditional
    If we start now, we'll be on time.
  • Second Conditional (also, subjunctive possibility)
    If we were in a faster car, we would be on time.
  • Third Conditional (also, subjunctive possibility)
    If we had started earlier, we would have been on time.
  • Subjunctive (importance)
    It is imperative that we make it on time.
  • Subjunctive (wish)
    I wish we had started already.
  • Subjunctive judgement & possibility (also, second mixed conditional)
    If she had been here, we could have started already, and would have easily been there on time!

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