Here is the example sentence my Japanese teacher who teaches English gave to her students:

  1. If I have a chance to visit... I would like to visit...

This immediately struck me as odd. My instinct is to make both verbs past tense and say:

  1. If I had the chance to visit... I would visit...

Then you have a conditional using the unreal past to describe a hypothetical situation.

Now, I assume the "would like to" is an attempt to make "want to" more formal. But my brain just doesn't like the present tense "have" and the past tense "would" put together.

My question is, is the first example sentence grammatical? And if it is grammatical, is the second sentence just more idiomatic?

  • There is an answer to a question about a similar type of 'mixed conditional' here: english.stackexchange.com/questions/403146/…
    – Shoe
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 11:17
  • 1
    There is the possibility of this too: If I have the chance, I will visit. would visit is not past tense....
    – Lambie
    Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 12:05

2 Answers 2


I think I have an answer for my own question. While doing some digging for an hour or so, I found this explanation of the second conditional on The Writing Center website

Second conditional: “Unreal and unlikely”
This conditional deals with situations in the present and future that are both unreal and unlikely. The situation we are describing hasn’t happened yet, and we really can’t imagine it happening very easily.

Later the website says

Notice that the verb “stuck” is in the past tense. Using the past tense verb shows two things:
+ it hasn’t happened yet (it’s unreal)
+ you don’t really believe it will happen (it’s unlikely)

Because this sentence is talking about a hypothetical trip to visit a foreign country, it makes perfect sense to use the second conditional. And therefore the verb "had" must be used instead of "have."


I agree with Lambie's comment. "Would" is not necessarily past tense -- it's just a marker for a hypothetical or conditional situation,

If I won the lottery I would spend all my time traveling.

I would go with you to the movies tomorrow, but I have to work.

When combined with certain verbs, it's common to use the past tense:

I would go with you to the movies tomorrow, if I didn't have to work.

In this case the explanation of the second conditional in your answer applies. It hasn't happened yet, and it's unlikely that I will go to the movies tomorrow (because of work). But I'm not sure this entirely restricts using the present tense:

I would go with you to the movies, if I don't have to work.

I agree this feels a little awkward, but it's still something I might say.

My guess is that your Japanese teacher's use of "I have a chance to" is more an artifact of the direct translation from the Japanese 機会があれば (kikai ga areba) or チャンスがあれば (chance ga attara) or some combination of these, both of which naturally feel like a present-tense statement. And I also agree that "would like" is used as a more polite version of "want".

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