His Do Over

A man shares what he wished he'd done differently in his life.

Past Conditional (Lesson Plan)

ESL students can hear real people speaking natural English using the past conditional. Recommended study plan:

  • Watch the video
  • Take the quiz
  • Listen again and read the script
  • Learn the grammar with the notes

Sarah: So Adam, today we’re talking about do-overs. So what is something that you wish you would have done over? For example, maybe something in your university life?

Adam: Yeah. There are a few things. I might change my major. I studied education, and while I enjoy what I’m doing right now, my free time I really like watching movies about science and astronomy. And if I would go back to school and start my studies over, I’d probably study something along those lines, astronomy and metaphysics or something.

I think that those topics are really interesting and on the cutting edge of science and just fascinating to explore.

Sarah: Interesting. Anything else you wish you would have done?

Adam: I might have been more involved in the sports clubs at my school. For example, the American football team. I played in high school but in college, I wanted to play but I didn’t have the motivation to push me over the edge to actually go out and really put my heart into it.

I went to one training day and kind of tried out, but I didn’t really pursue it as much as I would have liked. I think it would have been fun to be a part of that culture and that environment.

Sarah: How about something that you did do that maybe now you wish you hadn’t?

Adam: I pierced my ears in high school because that was the cool thing to do. But now I don’t wear earrings. And yeah, looking back on it, kind of just a silly thing to do that I’m trying to follow the trends, that, you know, trends usually pass.

So yeah, that would be something that I wouldn’t do again.

Sarah: Nice. Anything else you would have changed?

Adam: I might have made different decisions about my girlfriends at the time. I had a really good girlfriend in the beginning of college, and things didn’t work out because of a variety of reasons. But I think if we would have worked on it, we could have. We could have made it, made it happen. So yeah, that’s something I think about sometimes about life in college.

It’s always, you know, college love is kind of a crazy thing. So yeah, we’re too much like kids, I guess, I think at that age.

Sarah: Okay. Thanks, Adam.

Past Conditional

Point 1: We use modals plus the present perfect to speculate an alternative outcome to a completed action.
  1. I should have studied more in school.
  2. We should have saved some money.
  3. I would have been upset.
  4. I could have been a contender.
Point 2: We use the third conditional to express an outcome we cannot change.
  1. If I were you, I would have said something.
  2. If I could do it over, I would have changed jobs.
  3. If we had won, I wold have been happy.
  4. If the weather had been nicer, we would have stayed longer.
Point 3: We use wish + past perfect or wish + would + present perfect to show regret. The meaning is the same.
  1. I wish I had tried harder in school.
  2. I wish I would have tried harder in school.
  3. She wishes she had applied for the job.
  4. She wishes she would have appled for the job.
Point 4: The modal changes the meaning of the word.
  1. I would have said something. (I did not have the chance)
  2. I could have said something. (I had a chance, but did not)
  3. I should have said something. (I regret not saying something)
  4. I must have said something. (I speculate I said something)
  5. I might have said something. (The outcome might differ)
  6. I may have said something.
Answer the following questions about the interview.

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