Conditional (2): If my sister didn't live abroad, we <could, would> see her more

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diyana23

Senior Member
Russian
Hello everybody!

There is an exercise in Headway workbook, Intermediate, asking to write second conditional sentence for : My sister lives abroad. We don't see her more than once year.
Should we say:
If my sister didn't live abroad, we could see her more than once a year. OR
If my sister didn't live abroad, we would see her more than once a year.

Are there any differences in the meaning of above 2 sentences?

Thanks!
 
  • Aidanriley

    Senior Member
    English
    1. Means that you would have the capability of seeing her; not that you would actually see her for sure.
    2. Means that you would (for sure) actually see her more than once a year.
     

    kender12

    Member
    spanish
    thx from the post but From what we use the second conditional?

    the first is from to threat
    the three from conequence
    But Second conditional?
     

    Jam on toast

    Senior Member
    UK
    British English
    Hi diyana23,
    Your examples are both correct uses of the second conditional!

    Depending on context, you can use conditional verbs constructed with "could" or "would", or also "might". So the following would also be correct:
    "If my sister didn't live abroad, we might see her more than once a year."

    Your example sentences could also, depending on the meaning you want to convey, reverse the position of the negative verb, i.e.:
    "If my sister lived abroad, we couldn't / could not see her more than once a year." OR
    "If my sister lived abroad, we wouldn't / would not see her more than once a year." OR
    "If my sister lived abroad, we might not see her more than once a year."


    It's worth noting that the second coditional construction uses the subjunctive mood in the conditional (if) clause. Although the subjunctive has almost disappeared for most verbs, it still exists for "to be". Therefore the following would also be a correct variant, although probably a bit clunky in speech:
    "If my sister were (instead of WAS) to live abroad, we couldn't / could not see her more than once a year."

    A lot of native speakers ignore the subjunctive and get along fine without it, so unless it's for advanced exams, you can probably ignore it for everyday speech and writing.

    I hope that helps! Please say if I've not been clear.
     

    diyana23

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Thank you very much indeed, it's absolutely new for me and yes, it sounds a little weird, but i like to learn something interesting and new about English.
    Thanks.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Hello Diyana,

    I must say that I'd keep the subjunctive out of this discussion. Many grammarians think that second conditionals do not use the subjunctive.

    My sister lives abroad. We don't see her more than once a year.

    I've given numbers to your two suggestions, which were:
    1. If my sister didn't live abroad, we could see her more than once a year. OR
    2. If my sister didn't live abroad, we would see her more than once a year.
    I'd approach it like this.

    My sister lives abroad. We can't see her more than once a year.

    1st conditional: If my sister lives abroad, we can't see her more than once a year.
    2nd conditional: If my sister lived abroad, we couldn't see her more than once a year.
    3rd conditional: If my sister had lived abroad, we couldn't have seen her more than once a year.

    My sister lives abroad. We don't see her more than once a year.

    1st conditional: If my sister lives abroad, we don't see her more than once a year.
    2nd conditional: If my sister lived abroad, we wouldn't see her more than once a year.
    3rd conditional: If my sister had lived abroad, we wouldn't have seen her more than once a year.

    As you can see, I hope, I don't think either of your answers is right. I think your answers 1. and 2. are second conditionals of sentences made from two other pairs of sentences, repectively:

    1. My sister doesn't live abroad. We can see her more than once a year. .
    2. My sister doesn't live abroad. We see her more than once year

    I hope you can see that the correct answer is the underlined one of the six brown sentences, and why.
     
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