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if - first & second conditional

English grammar questions, answered by Alan

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suhann
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if - first & second conditional

Post by suhann » Wed Feb 08, 2006 9:16 am

Greetings!

I am confused as to when I should use the first conditional and second conditional forms of "IF".

When should I say :

"If I [b]wanted[/b] to make reservations for tonight, what should I do?"

And when should I say :

"If I [b]want[/b] to make reservations for tonight, what should I do?"

Thanks!

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Alan
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Post by Alan » Wed Feb 08, 2006 11:18 am

The only difference is in the implication on the part of the speaker as to the probability of the event specified by the if-clause actually coming about: if the speaker considers the event relatively likely, (s)he will use a first conditional, if relatively unlikely, a second. Thus if you don't think that you in fact will wish to make the reservations, you will choose 'wanted', whereas if you think that you well might wish to, you will choose 'want'.

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