Hi, welcome back. I trust you had a brilliant Bank Holiday, if you were in Britain. If you weren’t in the UK, I have to tell you that the weather in sunny Bournemouth yesterday was absolutely ‘sunny’. Anyway, last week I asked you to consider the following two sentences:

  1. When I was young I would walk along the river bank with my love.
  2. If I was young, I would walk along the river bank with my love.

In the first one it’s clearly referring to a point before the point ‘now’, firstly because of the word ‘when’ and secondly, because the speaker is presumably not young anymore and expressing some emotion at the point ‘now’, (nostalgia, regret) about a lost situation, but a situation which did actually happen. The use of the modal auxiliary ‘would’ describes the writer’s ‘mood’ at the point ‘now’.

In the second sentence the use of the modal auxiliary ‘would’ once again describes the ‘mood’ of the speaker at the point ‘now’, but this time the ‘mood’ expressed is probably regret, regret that walking along the river bank with their love is never going to happen again (if in fact it ever happened at all) because…they’re no longer young! (Sob! Sob!) (See blog 8) It’s an example of what’s traditionally referred to as ‘the second conditional’ and usually said to describe a ‘hypothetical future’.

Now, I’d like to leave you with this teaser for next week. Can you think of a situation where this ‘second conditional’ sentence:

  1. If I was in Australia, I would play cricket.

could apply to both ‘time before the point now’ and ‘time after the point ‘now’?

Until next week J