Learning English Through Music – Practising The Second Conditional Tense


A week or so ago, in my online lesson with my client, Maurizio he asked me if we could go over the Second Conditional Tense. As I was showing him the structure and the uses of the tense (If + Past Simple of Main Verb, Subject + Would + Main Verb – used for imaginary future), and he was giving me sentences using the tense, the song If I Were a Rich Man” from the film The Fiddler on the Roof started playing in my mind.

The more I sang the song in my head, the more I realised it would be a fun way for English Language Learners to practise the Second Conditional Tense.

I truly believe that learning English through music is one of the best ways of improving fluency. Why? It’s fun and it’s all about repetition. The more you hear the words, the more your brain absorbs the language sub-consciously and before you know it, you’re singing to the song like a native speaker!

And there’s no reason why you cannot use songs to practise your English Grammar, too.

The Lyrics

“Dear God, you made many, many poor people.
I realize, of course, that it’s no shame to be poor.
But it’s no great honor either!
So, what would have been so terrible if I had a small fortune?”

If I were a rich man,
Yubby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dum.
All day long I’d biddy biddy bum.
If I were a wealthy man.
I wouldn’t have to work hard.
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
If I were a biddy biddy rich,
Idle-diddle-daidle-daidle man.

I’d build a big tall house with rooms by the dozen,
Right in the middle of the town.
A fine tin roof with real wooden floors below.
There would be one long staircase just going up,
And one even longer coming down,
And one more leading nowhere, just for show.

I’d fill my yard with chicks and turkeys and geese and ducks
For the town to see and hear.
Squawking just as noisily as they can.
With each loud “cheep” “swaqwk” “honk” “quack”
Would land like a trumpet on the ear,
As if to say “Here lives a wealthy man.”

If I were a rich man,
Yubby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dum.
All day long I’d biddy biddy bum.
If I were a wealthy man.
I wouldn’t have to work hard.
Yubby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dum.
If I were a biddy biddy rich,
Idle-diddle-daidle-daidle man.

I’d see my wife, my Golde, looking like a rich man’s wife
With a proper double-chin.
Supervising meals to her heart’s delight.
I see her putting on airs and strutting like a peacock.
Oy, what a happy mood she’s in.
Screaming at the servants, day and night.

The most important men in town would come to fawn on me!
They would ask me to advise them,
Like a Solomon the Wise.
“If you please, Reb Tevye…”
“Pardon me, Reb Tevye…”
Posing problems that would cross a rabbi’s eyes!

And it won’t make one bit of difference if I answer right or wrong.
When you’re rich, they think you really know!

If I were rich, I’d have the time that I lack
To sit in the synagogue and pray.
And maybe have a seat by the Eastern wall.
And I’d discuss the holy books with the learned men, several hours every day.
That would be the sweetest thing of all.

If I were a rich man,
Yubby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dum.
All day long I’d biddy biddy bum.
Idle-diddle-daidle-daidle man.

Lord who made the lion and the lamb,
You decreed I should be what I am.
Would it spoil some vast eternal plan?
If I were a wealthy man.


Let me know what you think about learning English through music. Do you have favourite songs in English that could be used in an English Lesson?

Ciao. Until the next time.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

24 thoughts on “Learning English Through Music – Practising The Second Conditional Tense”

  1. Hi Shanthi. Music is a great path to learning the English intonation and stress patterns also. Thank you for sharing this video, and I will pass this on to my clients.

    1. Hi JoAnn, You’re absolutely right. Music is so beneficial on so many levels. I’m so glad you found the video useful. Thanks so much for stopping by and great to meet you.

    1. Hello Stael,

      I’m so glad you like it. There are many more songs out there if you mean to practise the Second Conditional Tense. Here are a few examples:

      If I were a boy – Beyonce http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EE57oaVEQZA&list=PLo83iX5kw8X6uUc746fVptWfQoGOvEs_C

      If I were a sailboat – Katie Melua http://musicenglish.co.uk/if-you-were-a-sailboat-by-katie-melua/

      If I had a $1m – Barenaked Ladies http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXdFTh1yX2c&list=PLo83iX5kw8X6uUc746fVptWfQoGOvEs_C

      Thank you for stopping by.


        1. You are very welcome. If you have other songs that you use for your learners, please share them with me. I’m always looking for inspiration from other teachers and language learners.
          Have a great weekend.

  2. I have spoken English all my life and have never stopped to think what the ‘second conditional tense’ means……….now I know, and I will always think back to this song. What a totally useful connection! You are indeed a good teacher. So glad the financial markets crashed in 2008 or the world would have missed out on a great teacher. And we need as many great teachers as we can get!
    Blogging your experience? Great idea – you will inspire English language learners, teachers and those who are seeking to change career – triple whammy! Good luck and thank you for sharing, Shanthi. I look forward to reading more………..

    1. Thank you so much, Debbie, aka, my beautiful little sister!!!I’m so glad you liked the post and that you found it useful.
      And thank you so much for the ringing endorsement.
      More goodies to follow soon.

  3. I love your website and the concept of learning English through music. Last fall I lived with a family in Italy and taught them English. I am forwarding your link to them and believe that they will learn much from If I were a Rich Man.

    Thank you!

    1. Thank you so much for the compliments, Beth and thank you for sharing this post with your clients.
      Great to meet you and hope to see you again.

  4. I use music a lot! I play guitar and banjo as well. Students love it. I use “America” by Simon and Garfunkle for a punctuation and capitalization exercise! I sing each line and have them add punctuation to a totally puntuation-free text of the song on the whiteboard. A colleague of mine who recently came here to teach, found these words in a student’s book, kept for almost 8 months! It must have had some lasting effect. I use many songs and the is an ESL website that lists songs and how they can be used to teach pronounciation.

    1. Your method sounds wonderful, Anyse. I bet the student kept the work they had done with you. This sort of innovative form of teaching has a more far reaching effect that the standard ways of teaching Punctuation. I’d love to know the ESL site you are referring to. Some English native speakers could do with some revision!
      Thank you for stopping by and sharing your experiences here. Great to meet you.

  5. Hi, it’s wonderful! I enjoyed a lot & I hope my students will, too love it. I’m engaged in implementing spoken English programme in the schools in our country. I also use music when teaching especially, grammar. So it’s very practical and innovative. It’s a good motivation for the students to learn a particular grammar lesson rather than listening to a teacher’s outonomy always.
    So you’re a great teacher and a guide for us. thank you and I will cascade this with my team.

    1. I’m so glad you liked it, Himashi, and thank you very much for the compliment. I’m truly flattered. I hope I can be of further help in future posts.
      Thank you for stopping by.

  6. Hi Shanti,

    I have been using this song to practise the second conditional for many years. Another great song to practise this grammar is ‘If I were a boy’ by Beyonce.

    Thanks for your posts! I’m looking forward to read more!

  7. I always use “If I were the boy” for teaching second conditional. Joan Osborne’s “What if god was one of us” is also good.

    Otherwise I like to use “Yesterday” by Beatles for past simple or “Tom’s Diner” by Suzanne Vega for present continuous. Of course, there are many others.

    I like your blog by the way. Keep up the good work.

    1. Thank you so much for the tips, Ana. I will certainly bear in mind those songs for future clients.

      I’m so glad you like my blog. Thanks for reading.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *