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Spanish Si Clauses: How to Use and Form Conditional "If" Clauses

Do you want to know how to form 'if clauses' in Spanish? The first thing you need to know is that the word "si" is the Spanish term we use for the English word "if". So, from now on, think of 'si clauses' as 'if clauses'. Let's dive into some of the grammar rules and different uses that define 'si clauses' in Spanish.

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The two parts of a conditional sentence with a 'si clause'

We use 'si clauses' when we want to form conditional sentences. In fact, all conditional sentences in Spanish have the following two parts:

 

1. The condition, expressed (in a subordinate or dependant clause) with the conditional "si" (the actual si clause/if clause), and

2. The main clause, which is the sentence that tells us what the result or consequence will be if the condition expressed by the si clause occurs.

 

Let's see an example:

Si llueve, nos mojamos.

If it rains, we get wet.

Caption 47, Ana Carolina Condicionales

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In we take this example, we can easily see the two parts of that conditional sentence:

1. The condition with the si clause: Si llueve (If it rains)

2. The result clause: nos mojamos (we get wet)

 

When to use conditional 'si clauses' in Spanish

Just like with 'if clauses' in English, we use 'si clauses' in Spanish to talk about possibilities. Moreover, in Spanish, we have three different kinds of conditional sentences.

 

1. Conditional sentences with a likely result

We use these sentences to express things that are very likely to happen. In other words, if the condition occurs, the result will also occur. Let's see an example:

Si trabajas, tendrás dinero.

If you work, you'll have money.

Caption 56, Ana Carolina Condicionales

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2. Conditional sentences with an unlikely result

We use this kind of 'si clauses' when the speaker has serious doubts about the condition and its potential result. Let's see an example:

Si me tocara la lotería, viajaría por todo el mundo, y me alojaría en los hoteles más lujosos.

If I won the lottery, I'd travel around the whole world, and I'd stay at the most luxurious hotels.

Captions 26-27, El Aula Azul La Doctora Consejos: La segunda condicional

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3. Conditional sentences with an impossible result

Finally, we use these conditional sentences when we talk about a condition in the past that didn't occur, which means that it is impossible for the result to happen. Let's see an example:

Si hubiera estado sobrio, no me hubiera animado,

If I had been sober, I wouldn't have dared,

Caption 5, Yago 12 Fianza - Part 1

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The grammar behind conditional sentences with 'si clauses'

Now that we know the three main types of 'if clauses' in Spanish, let's see how to form each one of these types of conditional clauses.

 

1. Conditional sentences with a likely result

Condition: Si + present indicative

Result: present indicative OR future OR imperative

 

Let's look at an example:

Si sales, regresa temprano.

If you go out, come back early.

Caption 61, Ana Carolina Condicionales

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Notice that the result is expressed using the imperative form regresa (come back).

 

2. Conditional sentences with an unlikely result

Condition: Si + past (imperfect) subjunctive

Result: Simple conditional

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Let's see the following example:

Si me encontrara un sobre con cincuenta mil euros, lo cogería, claro. Y me compraría un coche descapotable.

If I found an envelope with fifty thousand euros, I'd take it, of course. And I'd buy a convertible car.

Captions 21-23, El Aula Azul La Doctora Consejos: La segunda condicional

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Notice that in this caption the result is expressed with the conditional forms cogería (I'd take it) and compraría (I'd buy).

 

3. Conditional sentences with an impossible result

Condition: Si + pluperfect subjunctive

Result: Past conditional

 

Let's see an example:

Si hubiera leído más, habría terminado el libro

If I had read more, I would have finished the book.

 

However, sometimes when the result clause refers to something that is still valid in the present, you can use the simple conditional instead of the past conditional. Let's see an example:

 

Es una pena; si hubiéramos firmado el contrato la semana pasada, todo seguiría igual.

It's a shame; If we had signed the contract last week, everything would stay the same.

Captions 22-23, Negocios Problemas laborales - Part 2

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Furthermore, in spoken Spanish it is common to use the pluperfect subjunctive in the result clause just like in the example we previously mentioned:

 

Si hubiera estado sobrio, no me hubiera animado,

If I had been sober, I wouldn't have dared,

Caption 5, Yago 12 Fianza - Part 1

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That's it for today. Are you ready to write some 'si clauses' in Spanish? We encourage you to write a couple of sentences for each one of the three types of conditional sentences we have covered in this lesson. And don't forget to send us your comments and questions

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The conditional tense in Spanish: Conjugation and use

Generally speaking, we use the conditional tense in Spanish to talk about hypothetical things. However, we also use the conditional tense for polite requests or when we want to express wishes and desires. Let's take a look at some simple rules that will help you to master the conditional tense in Spanish.

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The conjugation of the conditional tense

Before talking about the uses of the conditinal tense, it is important to review how to conjugate it. Let's start with the regular verbs. For these verbs, you just need to take the infinitive form and add the conditional ending. 

 

Regular verbs ending in -ar

Let's take the verb hablar (to speak)

Yo hablaría (I would speak)

Tú hablarías (You would speak)

Él/Ella hablaría (He/She would speak)

Nosotros hablaríamos (We would speak)

Vosotros hablaríais (You would speak)

Ellos hablarían (They would speak)

 

Regular verbs ending in -er

Let's take the verb comer (to eat)

Yo comería (I would eat)

Tú comerías (You would eat)

Él/Ella comería (He/She would eat)

Nosotros comeríamos (We would eat)

Vosotros comeríais (You would eat)

Ellos comerían (They would eat)

 

Regular verbs ending in -ir

Let's take the verb abrir (to open)

Yo abriría (I would open)

Tú abrirías (You would open)

Él/Ella abriría (He/She would open)

Nosotros abriríamos (We would open)

Vosotros abriríais (You would open)

Ellos abrirían (They would open)

 

Irregular conditional verbs in Spanish

There are several irregular verbs that are used all the time in the conditional tense. For these verbs, you need to keep in mind that they maintain the same stem that they have in the future tense. Let's see the conjugation for the verbs decir (to say) and hacer (to make).

 

Yo diría (I would say)

Tú dirías (You would say)

Él/Ella diría (He/She would say)

Nosotros diríamos (We would say)

Vosotros diríais (You would say)

Ellos dirían (They would say)

 

Yo haría (I would make)

Tú harías (You would make)

Él/Ella haría (He/She would make)

Nosotros haríamos (We would make)

Vosotros haríais (You would make)

Ellos harían (They would make)

 

5 common uses of the conditional tense in Spanish

In Spanish, it is quite common to use the conditional tense when you want to do any of the following:

 

1. To ask for information in a polite way

¿Podrías por favor decirnos a los... a nuestros amigos de Yabla en qué lugar están ustedes?

Could you please tell us to the... to our friends from Yabla where you guys are?

Captions 66-67, Monsieur Periné Entrevista

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2. To express a wish or desire

¿Te gustaría volver a tu ciudad? Pues la verdad es que me encantaría volver a Málaga.

Would you like to return to your city? Well the truth is that I would love to go back to Málaga.

Captions 33-34, Clara y Cristina Saludar

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3. To make a suggestion

Bueno, si yo fuera tú, hablaría con él.

Well, if I were you, I would speak with him.

Caption 24, El Aula Azul La Doctora Consejos: Subjuntivo y condicional

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4. To express a hypothesis or to take a guess

Cuatro horas es demasiado. Creo que no llegaría a tiempo a la reunión.

Four hours is too much. I think that I would not arrive in time for the meeting.

Captions 30-31, Raquel La Compra de un Billete de Tren

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5. To express the future in relation to what someone said in the past

Y que nos juramos que esto nunca iría a pasar

And we vowed to each other that this would never happen

Caption 21, Franco De Vita, Dueto Con Debi Nova Si Quieres Decir Adiós

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That's it for this lesson. We encourage you to write some sentences for the 5 different uses we mentioned for the conditional tense. And don't forget to send us your feedback and suggestions.

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If I Had Known - An Alternative to Si Clauses

Si clauses are typical markers of the Spanish conditional:

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Y yo creo que si me hubiese quedado viviendo...

And, I believe that if I had stayed living...

Caption 12, Festivaliando - Mono Núñez - Part 2

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However, sometimes you could use the conditional phrase de + haber + participio:

Y yo creo que de haberme quedado viviendo...
And, I believe that if I had stayed living...

In fact, the construction de + haber + participio (endings -ado, -ido, -to, -so -cho) is based on what in Spanish is known as the conditional compuesto or condidional perfecto (perfect conditional):

Here's an example of the perfect conditional combined with a si clause:

Tal vez, si yo fuera un poco más sensata habría inventado una poción

Maybe, if I were a bit more sensible I would have invented a potion

Captions 20-21, Belanova - Tal vez

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And this is how you substitute si with de:

Tal vez, de ser un poco más sensata habría inventado una poción
Maybe, if I were a bit more sensible I would have invented a potion

Just for practice, instead of present subjunctive (yo fuera) let's use past perfect subjunctive:

Tal vez, si yo hubiera sido un poco más sensata habría inventado una poción
Maybe, if I had been a bit more sensible I would have invented a potion

Substitution is as follows:

Tal vez, de haber sido un poco más sensata habría inventado una poción
Maybe, if I had been a bit more sensible I would have invented a potion

This recalls the common phrase de haber sabido (if I had known). It's also common to combine it with direct object pronouns: de haberlo sabido (If I had known of it), de haberlo pensado (if I had thought of it). 

But de + infinitive is not always an option. For example, you can't use it instead of the si clause when the conditional refers to an action in the future. You can't use it in the following example:

 

Voy a ver si alguna quiere jugar conmigo a Nimanji.

I am going to see if anyone wants to play Nimanji with me.

Caption 26, Kikirikí - Animales - Part 7

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This is because the perfect conditional can only be used to refer to actions in the past. Also have in mind that the perfect conditional is not only used with si clauses, because sometimes the condition for something to happen is left unexpressed or it's inferred only by context:
 

Yo y mi hermana hemos vivido una vida que no nos habríamos imaginado.

My sister and I have lived a life that we wouldn't have imagined.

Captions 68-69, Horno San Onofre - La Historia de la Pastelería

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But if we artificially add a si clause to the previous example, let's say:

Yo y mi hermana hemos vivido una vida que no nos habríamos imaginado [si viviéramos en México]
My sister and I have lived a life that we wouldn't have imagined [if we were living in Mexico]

Then you can make the de + infinitive substitution:

Yo y mi hermana hemos vivido una vida que no nos habríamos imaginado [de vivir en México]
My sister and I have lived a life that we wouldn't have imagined [if we were living in Mexico]

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Combining Subjunctive With Conditional

This is our third lesson in the series on the Spanish subjunctive. We invite you to read our lessons on Subjunctive and Indicative and Subjunctive and Imperative. Our site is featuring new social media widgets, so feel free to share the lessons with all your friends!

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Let's now study how to combine subjunctive with conditional. Don't forget all our examples use bold to highlight the subjunctive and underlining for the other moods.

The Spanish subjunctive can be used with both forms of the conditional. The most common one is the simple conditional. Remember that to conjugate regular -ar, -er and -ir verbs in the conditional, you add the endings -ía, -ías, -ía, -íamos, -íais, -ían to the infinitive form of the verb. You may want to refresh your knowledge of the Spanish conditional and keep your conjugation charts handy for this lesson.

The simple conditional is usually combined with the pretérito imperfecto de subjuntivo (imperfect subjunctive). It is one of the most common ways to express wishes in Spanish. Incidentally, this is one of the few cases in which you can use subjunctive as the main or independent clause of a compound sentence in Spanish:

Quisiera que el coche tuviera GPS.
I would want [I wish] the car had GPS.

Compare this to the use of simple present indicative with present subjunctive, which we learned in our first lesson: 

Quiero que el coche tenga GPS.
I want the car to have GPS.

Which is very different from not using subjunctive at all: 
Quiero que el coche tiene GPS.
I want the car has GPS.


ERROR! You can't say this in Spanish. You must use subjunctive as in the first two examples. English can't get away with it either, at least not using present indicative, as shown in the equally wrong translation. The infinitive is acceptable in English ("yes, I want the car to have GPS"), but not Spanish: saying sí, quiero que el coche tener GPS is even worse! Don't do it.

Let's go back to simple conditional and subjunctive. You can also use the simple conditional with the pretérito pluscuamperfecto del subjuntivo (pluperfect subjunctive). Since this is a compound tense that's kind of fancy, is not very common to combine it with simple conditional. But it happens. Let's use the same example with the verb querer (to want):

Querría que el coche hubiera tenido GPS.
I would want [I wish] the car had had GPS. 

And it gets fancier than that. Spanish has two forms of conditional, a simple one and a compound form that uses the verb haber (to have) plus participio (-ado, -ido, -to, -so, -cho endings): the conditional perfect. You can use it with pluperfect subjunctive. These expressions are not common since you can always use a more simple construction. But here are two examples:

With the imperfect subjunctive (seen above):
Habría querido que el coche tuviera GPS.
I would have wanted the car had GPS.

With the pluperfect subjunctive is even less common:
Habría querido que el coche hubiera tenido GPS.
I would have wanted the car had had GPS.

To end this lesson we want to share with you some cases in which Spanish uses subjunctive in simple sentences, short expressions that are very commonly uses in everyday life. Spanish is not precisely well known for having short expressions, but one of our readers helped us realized how beautiful these are:

¡Que descanses!
¡Que te vaya bien!
¡Que llueva!
¡Que todo se solucione!
¡Que salga el sol!

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In fact, if you look closely, these short expressions are just using implicitly the verb desear ( "to wish" or "to hope"):

¡[Deseo] que descanses! I hope you have some rest.
¡[Deseo] que te vaya bien! I hope you do well.
¡[Deseo] que lluevaI hope it rains.
¡[Deseo] que todo se solucioneI hope everything gets solved.
¡[Deseo] que salga el sol! I hope the sun comes out.

Which makes them a classic case of present indicative combined with present subjunctive. 

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Expressing Possibilty

Our previous lesson explored the use of the verbs haber and deber to express obligation, requirement, or necessity. Let's now see how we can used them to express possibility or supposition instead.

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We learned that the construction haber + de + infinitive is used to express obligation or necessity. The following example, however, shows that it's also possible to use it to express possibility:
 

Si mi vida ha de continuar... será por ti

If my life should continue... it will be for you

Captions 7-10, Belanova - Por ti

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Of course, as you may have noticed, the use of the conditional si (if) plays an important role here. By using it, a sentence that would otherwise express a certain necessity, like mi vida ha de continuar (my life should continue), is transformed into one that expresses possibility. We can also use other words or phrases besides the conditional, for example, words typically used to express possibility, supposition, conjecture, or doubt. Here is an example using tal vez (maybe):
 

Tal vez ha de haber sido... un intento de mi parte.

Maybe it must have been... an attempt on my part.

Captions 24-25, Arturo Vega - Entrevista - Part 4

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However, sometimes we have to figure it out by the context. See for example this fragment of the song Marciano (Martian) by Mexican band Molotov:

No es el cuerpo marrano que solía tener, ni la cara, mi reina, que tú has de querer.
It's not the fat body I used to have, nor the face, my queen, that you probably want.

In fact, English is not unfamiliar with the use  of "should" and "must" to express probability in sentences that rely on context for interpretation. Here are two examples:

Ha de tener hambre. | She must be hungry.
Has de querer que te de dinero. | You must want me to give you money.

You must also know that the expression ha de ser by itself means "perhaps" or "maybe":

Creo que ella es la ladrona. -Sí. Ha de ser.
I believe she is the thief. -Yes. Perhaps.

More interesting yet is the use of the verb deber (which is also a noun meaning "duty") to express possibility in Spanish. In our previous lesson you learned that deber + infinitive is used to express obligation. You also learned that it's grammatically incorrect, though common, to use deber + de + infinitive for the same purposes: you mustn't say debes de hacer la tarea, you must say debes hacer la tarea (you must do your homework). This is because deber + de + infinitive is reserved in Spanish to express possibility. Here are some examples:
 

Ah el... Este debe de ser el contrato.

Oh the... This must be the contract.

Caption 15, Muñeca Brava - 9 Engaños - Part 9

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So, in the case of the verb deber, Spanish uses two slightly different constructions: debe de + infinitive for possibility, and debe + infinitive for obligation. Compare the previous example with the following:

Yo insisto en que éste debe ser el contrato.
I insist that this must be the contract.

Here is another example where debe de is correctly used to express possibility: 
 

Así que creo que le debe de haber sido muy difícil.

So I believe that it must have been very hard for her.

Caption 47, Biografía - Natalia Oreiro - Part 6

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But, as we mentioned before, the use of debe de + infinitive instead of debe + infinitive to express obligation is a very common mistake. We should avoid doing it, especially in written or formal Spanish. Not that it's a big deal, but below is one example (and you can find many more similar cases by searching our catalog): 
 

Y esto lo debe de pagar* el cliente porque es de otro siniestro.

And this must be paid by the customer because it's from another accident.

Captions 17-18, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 20

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*Y esto lo debe pagar el cliente is the correct expression.

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Using 'Si Clauses' as Part of a Question - Part 2

Using 'Si Clauses' as Part of a Question - Part 1

In a previous lesson we explored the use of conditional si clauses in questions. Since one of our new videos for the week focuses on the Spanish conditional, we think it's a great opportunity to continue exploring the topic, reviewing a couple of examples where si clauses are used in a more orthodox way. 

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As you know, conditional si clauses always have two parts: the condition, or si (if) clause, and the followup, which indicates what will happen if the condition is met. In these examples, the subjunctive is used in the si clauses, while the conditional (underlined) is reserved for the followup:
 

Bueno, si yo fuera tú, hablaría con él.

Well, if I were you, I would speak with him.

Caption 24, El Aula Azul - La Doctora Consejos: Subjuntivo y condicional

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Creo que si fuera consciente me... me volvería loca porque es así como muy fuerte.

I think that if I were paying attention I... I would go crazy because it's kind of really intense.

Captions 115-116, Biografía - Natalia Oreiro - Part 9

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Si tuviera otra oportunidad De empezar de cero otra vez, De vivir una nueva vida más Yo volvería a repetir Y volvería a nacer

If I had another chance To start from zero again, To live one more new life I would repeat And would be born again

Captions 2-6, La habitación roja - La segunda oportunidad

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More frequently though, you will hear that speakers use the indicative for both the main clause and the si clause:
 

Y si le caes mal, es su problema entonces.

And if he doesn't like you, it's his problem then.

Captions 30-31, El Aula Azul - La Doctora Consejos: Subjuntivo y condicional

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It is as if the speaker assumes that the condition has, in fact, been met, and therefore uses the indicative to state both, the si clause and the main clause, as facts. Can you tell how this example would look if we were to use the conditional and the subjunctive instead of the indicative? It would look like this:

Y si le cayeras mal, sería su problema entonces. 
And if he didn't like you, that would be his problem then. 

Interesting, right? Let's review a few more examples using indicative:
 

Yo, si me los pongo, lo aguanto.

Me, if I put them on, I deal with it.

Caption 60, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 14

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Así que si quieres me esperas, si no comprendo

So, if you want, you wait for me, if not, I understand

Caption 16, Karamelo Santo - Que no digan nunca

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¡Ay, chicos, si quieren les hago tostadas!

Hey, guys, if you want, I'll make toast for you!

Caption 41, Muñeca Brava - 2 Venganza - Part 9

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Using 'Si Clauses' as Part of a Question - Part 1

Using 'Si Clauses' as Part of a Question - Part 2

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The conditional si (if) is used to express probability, possibility, wonder or conjecture in Spanish. One of the most common ways to use this conjunction is in the so called "si clauses," i.e. conditional sentences that have two parts: the condition, or si clause, and the main clause, which indicates what will happen if the condition of the si clause is met. Here is an example of a si clause in its classic form:
 

Dicen que si los sueños se cuentan después no se cumplen, loco.

They say that if you tell your dreams, then they won't come true, dude.

Caption 43, Muñeca Brava - 41 La Fiesta - Part 7

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However, the use of si clauses in Spanish is very versatile. Not only are there several types of si clauses, but also several ways to actually use them in real speech. One notable example is the use of si clauses in questions. Let's review some examples:

In one of our newest videos, we hear a member of the Kikiriki crew using a si clause to make a proposal:
 

¿Y si nos conseguimos un abrigo de piel de jaguar para que él piense que somos primos de él?

How about we get a jaguar fur coat so that he thinks that we are cousins of his?

Captions 24-25, Kikirikí - Animales - Part 4

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The use of the conjunction y (and) before the si clause in this type of question is very common, even when it's posible to get rid of it without altering its meaning:

Another common way to introduce a si clause in this type of question is using the phrase qué tal (how about):
 

Qué tal si yo me inyecto el pulgar en la boca

Maybe if I stick my thumb into my mouth

Caption 59, Calle 13 - Un Beso De Desayuno

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It's also very common to combine both the conjunction y (and) and the phrase qué tal (how about) to introduce the si clause:
 

¿Y qué tal si hablo así?

And what about if I speak like this?

Caption 14, Guillermina y Candelario - Una película de terror

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Of course, in the previous two examples, you could perfectly get away with not using the y (and) and qué tal (how about) introductions. But using them would definitely make your speech sound much more like that of a native speaker. 

In Spanish, there are even longer phrases that people use in order to introduce a si clause in a question. For example, you can use another question: qué les parece (what do you think):
 

¿Qué les parece si ahora que se acercan las fiestas navideñas, nos apuntamos a un servicio online... ?

Now that the Christmas holidays are coming up, how about signing up for an online service... ?

Captions 29-30, Tecnópolis - Empresas del mar en Almería

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Finally, we want to share an interesting substitution of the conditional si (if) for the word tal (such), which you may hear in Colombia and other South American countries:

 

Entonces, qué tal que nosotros le llevemos un concierto.

Therefore, how about we take a concert to them.

Caption 14, Festivaliando - Mono Núñez - Part 12

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¿Y qué tal si continúas aprendiendo español con uno de nuestros nuevos videos(And how about you continue learning Spanish with one of our new videos?)

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