Conditional Tense Spanish: Hypotheticals with examples

What is up, Gringolandia? It’s your boy Gringo Starr AKA Sean Key back at it again with a quick, yet incredibly insightful look into conditional tense Spanish (and the White Vans). We’ll laugh, we’ll cry, we’ll learn some subjuntivo, then one day we’ll die (sorry that got dark to satisfy the rhyme scheme). Buckle up.

Simple Conditional Tense Spanish

First things first—let’s look at some simple if-then statements in the indicative mood for comparison.

? “If Rex is a dog, then Rex is an animal.” ?
? “Si Rex es un perro, entonces Rex es un animal.” ?

? “If I go to the store, I’ll buy you candy.” ?
? “Si voy a la tienda, te compraré dulces.” ?

In cases like these, Spanish verbs are conjugated more or less as they are in English, without much that might trip up an uber-Gringo like you or me. The ‘then’ may be omitted in both languages at times.


Hypothetical Conditional Tense Spanish

Forming if-then statements becomes a little bit trickier when we are talking about hypotheticals. Although there are important variations and subtleties, I am going to focus on hypotheticals that concern things that we know are not the case.

Counterfactual Conditionals

I wasn’t always a super-Gringo living in South America; I used to teach logic, and we logicians call conditionals in which the “if-part” is known to be false “counterfactual conditionals.” Ok I’ll stop being a huge nerd ?. Here’s an ostensive definition for you:

? “If I were rich, I would buy my parents a huge house.” ?
? “Si fuera rico, les compraría una casa gigante a mis viejos.” ?

So, this is a hypothetical if-then in the relevant sense because, in fact, I am not rich (yet ?… I hope one day to be both rich and smooth). This is known to me, the speaker, and so to form the if-then correctly in Spanish, I must use the imperfect subjunctive of ‘ser’, which is ‘fuera’ in the first-person.

The “then-part” is conjugated in the conditional in Spanish just like in English; “compraría” = “I would buy” (Note: unlike in English, you may often omit the subject in Spanish).

Also note that we actually use the subjunctive in English too, which is what we are doing when we say “If I/she/he/it were…”.

?? “If they had more time, they would study Japanese.” ??
?? “Si tuvieran más tiempo, estudiarían japonés.” ??

Again, as it is false that I have more time and I am only asking the listener to consider an imaginary scenario in which I did, I must use the imperfect subjunctive of ‘tener,’ which is ‘tuviera,’ in the first person.

We used a more informal grammatical structure in English this time, “If I had,” which often substitutes for the more technically correct (depending on your theory of language, perhaps) “If I were to have.”

“Tener” and “Ser” conjugated in the imperfect subjunctive

SubjectTenerSer
YoTuvieraFuera
Tú/vosTuvierasFueras
Él, ella, ud.TuvieraFuera
Ellos/Uds.TuvieranFueran
NosotrosTuviéramosFuéramos
‘Ser’ and ‘Tener’ in the imperfect subjunctive

A few more examples

Why the heck not?

? “If Socrates were alive, he would laugh at my jokes.” ?
? “Si Socrates viviera, reiría a mis bromas.” ?

? “If someone asked you to jump, would you say, “How high?” ?
? “Si alguien te pidiera que saltaras, dirías, “How high?” ?

? “If Santa Claus existed, would you get presents this year?” ?
? “Si Papa Noel existiera, recibirías regalos este año?” ?

Wrapping up

Alright, Spanish lovers, I hope you enjoyed this free Spanish lesson and learned something about how to form if-thens in Spanish.

Quick, dirty, but transparent plug: If you want to learn more Latin American Spanish, check out our website: https://www.wanderlust-online.com/

We offer private tutoring and group classes online and we have our “Headquarters” and flagship school in Buenos Aires, if you’re doing the nomad thing. You can get a free trial class with a native speaker with no obligation and buy more lessons to take your Spanish to the next level if you love it.

Peace, Love, and Spanish!
✌️ ❤️ ??
Wander on!
Gringo Starr

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