Spanish Language Blog

The conditional tense II: Usage Posted by on Jan 28, 2011 in Spanish Grammar

There are several ways in which the conditional is used in Spanish.  The connection among the conditional uses of verbs is that they don’t refer to events that definitely or necessarily have happened or are happening. In other words, the conditional tense refers to acts that can be seen as hypothetical, as we will see. For those wo speak english, it will be easy to apply it, because in most cases we can translate it as “would  verb form”. Let´s see some examples to clarify each use:

1- Describing an act that depends on a condition:

Si tuviese dinero, me iría de compras. (If I had money, I would go shopping.)  The condition to fulfill the action is having money.

2- In a dependent clause following a main clause in the past tense:

Dijo que nos sentiríamos mal tras tomar la medicina. (He said we would feel sick after taking our medicine).

3 – To indicate future time within the past:

Dijiste el año pasado que iríamos de vacaciones este verano. ( You told us last year that we were going on holiday next summer.)

4 –  To indicate probability, speculation or conecture in past time, or a concrete situation:

¿Donde estaría mi hermana ayer? Estaría en casa. (Where do yoy think my sister was last night? She was probably at home.)

¿Hablarías español en Irlanda? No, hablaría inglés. (Would you speak spanish in Ireland? No, I would speak English.

5- To politely make requests, state desires or ask for advice:

Desearía un vaso de agua. (I would like a glass of water.)

¿Usted cual elegiría en mi lugar? (Which one would you choose being me?)

We need to pay special attention to the Real vs. Unreal conditions.

A real condition is one which may actually come about or at least there is a possibility; in Spanish, the indicative is normally used both in the “if”clause and in the main part of the sentence:

Si nieva mucho, no iré a trabajar. (If it snows a lot, I won´t go to work.)

Si llegas tarde, te quedarás sin cenar. (If you come home late, you´ll have no dinner.)

In contrast, an unreal or contrary-to-fact condition is one which will not come about or is viewed as being completely hypothetical. In this case, the “if” clause in normally in a past subjunctive tense, and the main verb is in a conditional tense.

“if” clause main clause time aspect
si + imperfect subjunctive conditional present/future time actions (but expressed by the past tense in both English and Spanish)
Si hablaras, te creerían.
If you spoke, they would believe you.
si + past perfect subjunctive conditional perfect past time actions (expresed by previous-past time tenses both in English and Spanish)
Si hubieras hablado, te habrían creído.
If you had spoken, they would have believed you.

Finally, let me show you one of the best examples I know about unreal conditions. This is a poem by Angel Gonzalez, a great example of what we have been talking today. Hope you enjoy it!

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About the Author: Magda

Hi all! I’m Magda, a Spanish native speaker writing the culture posts in the Transparent Language Spanish blog. I have a Bachelor’s in English Philology and a Master’s in Linguistics and Literature from the University of Granada, in Spain. I have also completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Education, and then worked as an English teacher in several schools and academies for several years. Last year was my first at university level. In addition, I work as a private tutor, teaching English and Spanish as a foreign language to students and adults. In my free time, I’m an avid reader and writer, editing and collaborating in several literary blogs. I have published my first poetry book recently. And last but not least, I love photography!