Hypothetically Speaking: What Would You Do?

Imagine If?

Talking About Unreal Situations in the Present or Future

Goals: Talk about things that are untrue or not possible in the present/future

Functions: Used to talk about imagined things (including advice and things we would like) and unlikely or impossible future events

Form: If-clause (condition) + result clause –> (Simple past) + (would + simple form) – *note, you can reverse the order

Note: Were is used for both singular and plural subjects. (was is sometimes used informally)

Note: Could can be used in place of would to express possible results or options

Examples:

If I had more money, I would buy a house. –> I don’t have more money, so it is not possible. I am imagining an unreal situation.

If I had more money, I could buy a house. –> I don’t have more money, but if I did, I would be able to buy a house.

If I were you, I would open a savings account. –> I am not you. This is unreal. It is also advice.

I would be sad if I had to leave Korea tomorrow. –> I will not have to leave Korea tomorrow. This will not happen. It is a very unlikely future event.

Hidden Camera: What Would YOU Do?

What Would YOU Do? is an American TV show that uses hidden cameras to see how ordinary people react to situations that require them to either take action or mind their own business (respect other’s privacy and not get involved in their conversations, lives, or problems).

*Note: While living in Korea, I have noticed big differences in behavior related to people minding their own business and not interfering in other people’s business. Interfering is far less common here than in the United States, so this might be rather unusual for Korean viewers. Coming from the United States, I have found a lack of interference shocking in some situations in Korea.

Before watching the video, discuss the following:

  • What kind of person would your parents not want you to marry?
  • What do you think would happen if you chose to marry someone your parents did not want you to marry?

Vocabulary and Expressions:

spewing – in this case, it is referring to saying a large amount of negative things
exquisite – very beautiful
storm away – leave angrily
let’s face it – be honest, face reality, recognize the truth
compassionate – showing care and understanding
meddle – to interfere or try to change something that is not your business
break the news – to tell someone bad news
put down – insult, criticize
lighten up – relax, don’t be so serious, don’t be so disapproving
can’t bear – can’t stand, can’t tolerate, too upset to accept something
ambush – suddenly attack someone by surprise
empathize – to understand how someone feels
walk away – to stop being involved in a situation because it is difficult to deal with
shun – to ignore or not speak to someone because you disapprove of their behavior or beliefs
no offense – not meant to offend or insult – though usually the person is saying something unappealing or insulting
let’s cool you down – to make or become less excited or less emotional
scold – to speak to someone angrily because you disapprove of their behavior
it’s nothing against you – no reason to dislike you, it’s not personal or about you personally – though it is probably still hurtful or insulting
it worked out – there was a good outcome or result

While watching the video, listen for:

  1. Examples of relaxed speech. Try to identify 6-10 examples.
  2. What advice does the first customer give to the couple? What advice does he give to the parents?
  3. If the older woman’s daughter came home with somebody like Eric, how would she feel?
  4. What advice does the older woman give to Madison? What advice does she give to Eric?
  5. What advice does the last older woman give to Madison’s parents when they return?

After watching the video and discussing the answers to the questions above, discuss the following:

  • What advice would you give to Madison and Eric?
  • What would you say to the parents?

Students: Additional online examples and practice exercises with answers can be found at The University of Victoria’s English Language Center study zone.

For teachers: Additional practice and materials on the second conditional can be found in Understanding and Using English Grammar, Chapter 20 (4th Edition) by Betty S. Azar. This is my absolute favorite grammar textbook because it has great charts and warm-up, listening, reading, writing and speaking exercises for practice. There is also a newer addition. If you’d like to take a look inside, you can do so in this edition:

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