ESL Music Ideas - The 2nd Conditional

The 2nd conditional is one of the most important grammar topics in the ESL classroom. It is important because it is very common in conversation, and therefore must be learned by anyone who wants to speak and understand English.

One example of how this grammar structure is so popular is because it is in many English songs. Music is a great way to teach the 2nd conditional.

Here is a list of the tops 5 songs that use the 2nd conditional.


Beyonce - If I Were a Boy

This is the best song for many reasons. The entire song is a story about what it would be like if Beyonce were a boy. This is a great example of how the 2nd conditional is used for present unreal, or hypothetical situations. The lyrics use the modal would to show these hypothetical situations. The lyrics are also grammatically correct because they say "if I were a boy" and not "if I was a boy." Using "were" is the correct structure, but is not always done in other songs.

As well, this song is new and popular. Students enjoy the lesson more when the music being used is something they actually know and like.


Barenaked Ladies - If I Had a Million Dollars

This is a song by a Canadian band that is not so popular around the world. However, it is excellent to teach the 2nd conditional. The reason it is so good is because it uses the grammar structure many times throughout the song. It shows the hypothetical situation of what the singer would do if he had a million dollars.

The song is also great because the singer talks about all the things he would buy, which helps to practice nouns. Students can learn about different types of cars, clothes, furniture, and more.


Katie Melua - If You Were a Sailboat

This song is like the first two because it has many examples of the grammar structure. Many times in the lyrics the singer uses "If you were a __________, I would___________." This is why it is another excellent song to show how this conditional is for hypothetical situations.


Cher - If I Could Turn Back Time

This one is an old song, but still a classic. Students will probably have heard it before, so they will be able to relate to it and enjoy it. Although it is not as full of conditional sentences like the first three, the chorus gives good examples. It is also good because it uses "could", which is not always that common. Students can practice the modal "could" as it is used for ability.


Lyle Lovett - If I Had a Boat

This song also has many examples of the 2nd conditional, so it makes for great practice. The added benefit here is that it is country music, which is often something ESL students do not know very much about. Therefore, it can also work well with a country music theme, as students can learn about a type of music that is very popular in many English speaking countries.

These songs are clearly not the only examples of the 2nd conditional in music. However, they are the 5 best, and can be used in the ESL classroom.


  1. A student in my class sang a song about ESL. He was a dapper 70 year old and I recorded it here:

    1. Thanks for the reply. It sounds like a fun song even though it's not in English. It is funny to hear the English words every so often throughout the song.