If Sentences in Spanish (Si …): The CONDITIONAL TENSE

If Sentences in Spanish (Si …): The CONDITIONAL TENSE

Si yo fuera multimillonaria, ayudaría a que todas las personas tuvieran un hogar dónde vivir.
(If I were a billionaire, I would help all people to have a home to live.)

Si yo fuera millonaria, me llevaría a toda mi familia de vacaciones a Bali.
(If I were a millionaire, I would take my entire family on a holiday to Bali.)

Did you see what I did there? I used a conditional sentence in Spanish, which are the Spanish if-sentences that always start with “si”.

In this video, you’ll learn all you need to know about conditionals in Spanish; the most challenging part is getting the verb conjugations right. Si quieres aprender español conmigo, tienes que ver este video. (If you want to learn Spanish with me, you have to see this video.) ¡Empecemos! (Let’s get started!)

1. Aspectos generales (General aspects)

Conditional sentences present a scenario that is likely to occur if a condition is satisfied. Conditional sentences have two parts:

Una frase subordinada. Esta la podemos reconocer porque empieza con la palabra SI. (A subordinated phrase. This one we can recognize because it starts with the word “SI”.) Equivalente al inglés “IF”. (Equivalent to the English IF.) This subordinated phrase sets the condition.

La otra parte es la oración principal. (The other part is the main clause.) This tells you the outcome, the result.

En español hay tres tipos de oraciones condicionales. (In Spanish there are 3 types of conditional sentences.) Depending on whether the subordinate clause manifests possibility, probability, or unreality. Así que las frases condicionales pueden ser: reales, potenciales o irreales. (So conditional sentences can be: real, potential, or unreal.)

For each kind (real, potential, and unreal) we use different verbal tenses. Let’s start with the real ones.

2. Situaciones reales (Real situations)

For this case, you conjugate both the subordinate and the main clause in the indicativo (indicative). For example:

¡Si hay boletos, voy contigo al concerto
(If there are tickets, I’ll go to the concert with you!)

It’s likely/realistic that I would go to the concert if there are tickets. So you say “voy” in indicativo (indicative). In this case we are using the present indicativo (indicative). En los condicionales reales, también se usa el futuro indicativo. (In real conditionals, the future indicative is also used.)

Si tengo chance, iré al concerto.
(If I get a chance, I will go to the concert.)

Let’s practice with dialogues:

¿Vas a ir a la fiesta?
(Are you going to the party?)

No sé, es que no he llegado a mi casa, pero si me da tiempo, sí voy.
(I don’t know, I haven’t gotten back home, but if I have time, I’ll go.)

It’s likely/realistic that I would have the time. Notice the subjunctive “sí voy”.
¿Vas a ir de vacaciones este año?

(Are you going on a vacation this year?)
Si tengo dinero y si me dan vacaciones, iré a Acapulco.

(If I have money and if I get time off from work, I will go to Acapulco.)

¿Vas a ir al festival?
(Are you going to the festival?)

Si consigo boleto.
(If I can get a ticket.)

The next one is a classic phrase brought to you by all Mexican moms whenever they sent us to look for something and we would say that it was nowhere to be found.

Y si yo voy y lo encuentro… ¿qué te hago?
(And what if I go and find it…  what do I do to you?)

I absolutely love this phrase! We Mexicans can be quite controversial when it comes to the way we bring up children. Know more about it in this video.

Continuemos con más ejemplos: (Let’s continue with more examples:)

¿Quieres aceitunas en la pizza?
(Do you want olives in your pizza?)

Sí, pero solo si son aceitunas negras, si no tienen aceitunas negras, no quiero.
(Yes, but only if they are black olives, if they don’t have black olives, I don’t.)

3. Oraciones condicionales improbables o imaginarias (Improbable or imaginary conditional sentences)

These kind of sentences set an imaginary or hypothetical scenario in the present or the future that is not likely to take place.

La oración subordinada es conjugada en imperfecto de subjuntivo. Por su parte, mientras que la oración principal se conjuga en condicional. (The subordinate sentence is conjugated in imperfect subjunctive. Meanwhile, the main sentence is conjugated in conditional.)

How confusing! This is why at Spring Spanish we don’t rely on grammar. Our team of polyglots, experts in language acquisition, know for a fact that the best way to speed your way into fluency is through the use of chunks. Phrases and word combinations that native speakers use all the time. Download your free copy of a list of the most popular Spanish chunks in the link in the description.  

In any case, to summarize: for conditional sentences like this, you need to use imperfecto de subjuntivo (imperfect subjunctive) for the “if- clause”, and condicional (conditional) for the main clause. If you’d like to learn more about subjuntivo (subjunctive) conjugation, watch our video on the topic.

Amiga, ¿me ayudas a pintar mi casa?
(Girlfriend, would you help me paint my house?)

Ay amiga, no tengo tiempo. Te juro que si tuviera tiempo te ayudaría.
(Oh girlfriend, I don’t have time. I swear that if I had the time I would help you.)

Si tuviera tiempo (if I had the time) is the subordinate “if-clause”, in subjuntivo because it’s unlikely to happen. Te ayudaría (I would help you) is the main clause, with the verb conjugated in conditional.

Si te ganaras la lotería, ¿qué harías?
(If you won the lottery, what would you do?)

Si me ganara la lotería, lo primero que haría sería ¡dejar de llevarme contigo!
(If I won the lottery, the first thing I would do would be to stop hanging out with you!)

¿Qué harías si fueras millonaria?
(What would you do if you were a millionaire?)

Si yo fuera millonaria… llevaría a toda mi familia de vacaciones y de compras una vez al año.
(If I were a millionaire… I would take my whole family on a holiday and shopping once a year.)

Attention to all the “ría” ending. ¿Qué harías?, sería, llevaría. That’s key to identifying a conditional sentence.

¿Si pudieras viajar en el tiempo, ¿a dónde irías?
(If you could time-travel, where would you go?)

Si yo pudiera viajar en el tiempo, iría al future.
(If I could travel in time, I would go to the future.)

Si pudieras cenar con cualquier persona, viva o muerta, ¿con quién cenarías?
(If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, with whom would you have dinner?)

Si pudiera cenar con cualquier persona, cenaría con Michael Faraday.
(If I could have dinner with any person, I would have dinner with Michael Faraday.)

Now let’s break into song…

Si te pudiera mentir, te diría que aquí todo va marchando muy bien, pero no es así…
(If I could lie to you, I would tell you that everything is going very well, but it’s not like that…)

Oh this is such a good song. Se llama “Si Te Pudiera Mentir” de Marco Antonio Solís, pero también hay una versión más moderna de Calibre 50. (It’s called “If I Could Lie to You” by Marco Antonio Solis, but there’s also a more modern version by Calibre 50.) Check it out!

And while you’re at it, let me know in the comments if you have watched Maria Fernanda’s video about how to use songs to learn Spanish.

4. Oraciones condicionales imposibles o irreales (Impossible or unreal conditional sentences)

Impossible or unreal conditional sentences express a past hypothetical scenario that did not take place. Ojo: En el pasado. (Attention: In the past.)

Pero mejor hay que ver ejemplos: (But instead let’s see some examples:)

Si hubiera tenido tiempo, habría ido a la fiesta.
(If I would have had the time, I would have gone to the party.)

“Si hubiera tenido tiempo”, If I would have had the time… BUT I DIDN’T. So you use the past tense subjunctive. Habría ido a la fiesta (I would have gone to the party), BUT I DIDN’T, so you use the past condicional.

Si hubiera tenido la oportunidad, habría estudiado la universidad en la ciudad de México y no en Cancún.
(If I had had the chance, I would have studied university in Mexico City and not in Cancun.)

Si hubiera sabido que estarías en la ciudad, te habría invitado a salir.
(If I had known that you were going to be in the city, I would have asked you out.)

¿Cómo estuvo el festival?
(How was the festival?)

Increíble.
(Incredible.)

Ajá, pero ¿cómo estuvo? Cuéntame detalles.
(Ok, but how was it? Give me details.)

Bueno, ok, pero si hubieras ido, no te tendría que contar nada.
(Well, ok, but If you had gone, I wouldn’t have to tell you anything.)

Pay attention to that “hubiera”. It’s crucial in the construction of unreal conditional sentences.

Si me hubiera casado con un millonario, otro gallo me cantara.
(If I had married a millionaire, things would be different for me (Lit.: another rooster would sing to me).

Ay amiga, el hubiera no existe.
(Oh girlfriend, “what ifs” doesn’t exist.)

El hubiera no existe. Esta es una frase muy usada en el mundo hispanoparlante. (”What ifs” don’t exist. This phrase is quite used in the Spanish-speaking world.) We use to say “there is no use in asking what if”. You’ll hear it a lot!

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