Her Do Over

A woman shares what she wished she'd done differently in her 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

Adam: Hi Sarah.

Sarah: Hi.

Adam: Today we’re talking about do-overs. So if you had a time machine and you could go back to your college years, is there anything that you might change or do differently?

Sarah: I really wish that I would have had the chance to study abroad. I chose the wrong major initially. I was a nursing major for two years, and worked really hard at a major I was really bad at. And then after two years, I switched schools and switched majors. And because of that, I had so many credits to take that I couldn’t study abroad or do really any extra classes that were fun.

Adam: Hmm, that must have been challenging. Where would you have liked to study abroad?

Sarah: Really, anywhere. I’ve always loved to travel, so I would have been open to going anywhere.

Adam: So you said you studied nursing, what would you have studied otherwise?

Sarah: Well, I first went into nursing because everyone since I was really little told me that I would be a good nurse. So I thought it was my calling in life. And then after taking lots and lots of science classes, which I’m really bad at, I decided to switch majors to education. And then I ended up liking that major, so I’m really happy that I switched.

Adam: Was there any other major that you would find interesting that you might study if you went back or you’re satisfied with education?

Sarah: I’m glad I did education because I really liked that work wise. But if I had to go with things that I’m interested in, I probably would have been some sort of art major. Both of my siblings are artists, so it kind of runs in the family a little bit.

Adam: What kind of art do you like?

Sarah: Mainly dance, but I also was really into music growing up, so musical instruments and singing.

Adam: So, do you have any friends that were interested in art or dance that you had in those times?

Sarah: Not really. No, actually.

Adam: Do you wish that if you were in a group of people that like the similar things that you might have pursued different interests.

Sarah: Hmm, definitely. I wish I would have done more with dance. I was a ballerina for 12 years. And I gave up on that when I was 14. So I got to the level where I either had to train professionally to do that for a job or stay in a class where the younger girls would keep moving up. And so at that time, I quit.

And although I don’t wish I was still doing ballet, I wish I would continued some kind of dance.

Adam: Interesting.

Adam: So Sarah, any funny haircuts or anything like that?

Sarah: Actually, yes. One week before I moved away to college, I cut my hair boy-short. And then after that, like during my first semester, I’d dyed it all different shades of red. And my hair has actually been pretty much every link and every natural-ish color.

Adam: Wow. How did your friends and family respond to your red hair?

Sarah: My mom didn’t like it so much. She thought I was going to die like a natural red color, but it was more of fuchsia red color. So she didn’t like it very much. But my friends and like siblings understood because I’ve always been very different and didn’t really care what other people thought about how I looked.

Adam: How long did you like it?

Sarah: For a while until I wanted change. I love change, so I’d always switch it to something else.

Adam: Well, that’s great. Thanks, Sarah.

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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