First conditionnal :" If I slap him what will he do.?" We're questionning about a future where if the slap happens ( not happened yet) what the person in question will do.

Second conditional: " If I slapped him what would he do." We're questionning about a hypothetical future where the slap already happened and the consequences of the act Or if the slap were to happen (not happened yet but we're wondering if we do it what will happen meaning the same as first conditionnal ) ?

  • 2
    The two are virtually identical in meaning, with the hint that your first variant shows a speaker more likely to act. Aug 15, 2017 at 9:49
  • both of the sentences are questions, so both of them imply that the slap still hasn't happened and there might be consequences from such act. the first one suggests you actually plan slapping the guy and you ask about his reaction while the second one is more of a tease - "what could he possibly do if I slapped him?!".
    – David Haim
    Aug 15, 2017 at 10:44
  • Well the second conditional sounds to me like I'm wondering about a hypothesis where the slap happened ( If I slapped him ( happened ) what would he do ) that is my question Aug 15, 2017 at 10:46
  • Like if this happened what would happen after not if this happens what would happen Aug 15, 2017 at 10:48
  • @VeryBadAtEnglish my personal non native opinion - the conditions in English (unlike, for example, Hebrew) are less about time and more about certainty. the first sentence you wrote implies that you're in fact going to slap someone. you ask about the guy's reaction. the second one implies a weaker certainty - I'm not necessary plan on slapping someone, but if I did, what would happen? since both are conditions you can't really assume either of them actually happened/will happen or not (unless they start with past perfect - then you know the act hadn't happened and will not happen)
    – David Haim
    Aug 15, 2017 at 10:51

2 Answers 2


A First Conditional states the consequence of a probable future. If you slap him, he'll get mad and break up with you.

A Second Conditional hypothesizes about a possible future. If I slapped him, what would he do? Would he slap me back?

A Third Conditional states the opposite of an event in the past. If I hadn't slapped him, he wouldn't have broken up with me. (But I did slap him and he did break up with me.)


From the BBC Learning English site.

The second conditional is about imaginary results of impossible or unlikely conditions in the present or future.

You can often tell whether people are talking about the present or the future.

If I lived in the U.S., I'd be outside watching the solar eclipse.

This is about the present because of the verb be.

  • I know that. My question is as I told another member of this site : ''Well the second conditional sounds to me like I'm wondering about a hypothesis where the slap happened ( If I slapped him ( happened ) what would he do ) that is my question'' Aug 15, 2017 at 11:37
  • The second conditional is about a future slap. If you want to ask about a past slap, and a present/future reaction, you need to use a mixed conditional. For example: If I had slapped him, what would he be doing? OR If I had bought Microsoft stock in 1986, I would buy a house for you. Aug 15, 2017 at 11:48
  • The mixed conditional with past slap and future reaction If I had slapped him, what would he do? sounds wrong to me, probably because you don't expect people to wait a long time before reacting to a slap. But in other situations that mixed conditional works fine: If your house had burnt down in yesterday's fire, where would you live? Aug 15, 2017 at 11:58
  • Actually it isn't about a past or past future it's as I said Wondering about a hypothetical future ' If I slapped him what would happen ' in that future the slap happened and I'm wondering about the consequences right ? Aug 15, 2017 at 12:00
  • I think I misinterpreted your question. That's right. Aug 15, 2017 at 12:01

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