Teaching the Second Conditional using a song

Posted on 07.03.2012

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A lot of my students tend to get bored when all we do is use the books to learn English. Most of them already speak a reasonable amount of English, they just need to understand the WHY and the WHEN to say certain things, and not others.

I’ve currently got about 4 classes who are all around the same level and are learning the same chapters in the same book. It’s actually one of my favorite levels to teach, since it reviews and solidifies all of the basic grammar before moving into the harder stuff and longer sentences (until now there isn’t much comma usage).

At this point in the game, I’m only supposed to teach the First Conditional, which is different from the Second Conditional (obviously, since they each get a separate name!!). But as always, the students have HEARD the SC used, and think it’s the same as the FC, so they pretty much always ask the question, ‘but when can I use WOULD?’. Would is clearly the SC, so I end up having to explain that there is another way and another rule. I generally end up teaching the SC far before I should because of this, but one of the things I’ve learned is that when you teach just ONE rule, it sometimes seems confusing. But when you teach it NEXT TO another, similar rule, the students can compare and contrast the two rules and can generally remember them in a bit of a relative fashion, and they enjoy this. It actually makes it a bit easier, teaching more.

For those of you who DON’T solidly know your English Grammar, here’s the breakdown:

First Conditional: ‘If it rains, I’ll bring an umbrella’:
The FC is used to discuss things that could plausibly happen and our reactions/actions regarding them. It utilizes the present tense (rains) + ‘will’.

Second Conditional: ‘If I had a million dollars, I’d buy your love’:
The SC is used to discuss things that are not as probable. It’s supposition and fantasy. It utilizes the past tense (had) +  ‘would’.

One of my German teachers brought us a Nena song to class once to show us typical German usage of the präsens tense (it’s like present perfect, but not exactly the same, because you can use it to discuss the past) and that was majorly helpful for a lot of the students. I thought that was a great idea. I’ve been working on finding songs that describe all of the tenses to help the students see how they’re used in real life, and my favorite to use is ‘If I had $1,000,000’ from the Barenaked Ladies. It’s perfect to describe the Second Conditional, and my students always find it funny.

AS THEY SHOULD!

If you don’t want to sit through the song and don’t know it, here are the lyrics. It’s perfect Second Conditional.

If I had a million dollars
(If I had a million dollars)
Well I’d buy you a house
(I would buy you a house)
If I had a million dollars
(If I had a million dollars)
I’d buy you furniture for your house
(Maybe a nice chesterfield or an ottoman)
If I had a million dollars
(If I had a million dollars)
Well I’d buy you a K-Car
(a nice Reliant automobile)
If I had a million dollars I’d buy your loveIf I had a million dollars, I’d built a tree fort in our yard
If I had a million dollars, You could help it wouldn’t be that hard
If I had a million dollars, Maybe we could put a fridge in there somewhere
(We could go up there whenever we wanted. We could get something to eat maybe)

If I had a million dollars

(If I had a million dollars)
I’d buy you a fur coat
(but not a real fur coat that’s cruel)
If I had a million dollars
(If I had a million dollars)
I’d buy you an exotic pet
(Yep like a llama or an emu)
If I had a million dollars
(If I had a million dollars)
I’d buy you John Merrick’s remains
(All them crazy elephant bones)
If I had a million dollars I’d buy your loveIf I had a million dollars, We wouldn’t have to walk to the store
If I had a million dollars, We’d take a limousine cause it costs more
If I had a million dollars, We wouldn’t have to eat Kraft Dinner
(But we would. But of course we would, we’d just eat more)

If I had a million dollars

(If I had a million dollars)
I’d buy you a green dress
(but not a real green dress that’s cruel)
If I had a million dollars
(If I had a million dollars)
I’d buy you some art
(a Picasso or a Garfunkel)
If I had a million dollars
(If I had a million dollars)
I’d buy you a monkey
(haven’t you always wanted a monkey?)
If I had a million dollars I’d buy your loveIf I had a million dollars
If I had a million dollars
If I had a million dollars
If I had a million dollars
If I had a million dollars
I’d be rich

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Posted in: teaching