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Conditional Subjunctive in Spanish

Instructor: Valerie Patrick

Valerie has a Master's Degree in Foreign Language Education and has previously taught Spanish as well as Education courses.

To talk about these dreamy, less than likely situations in Spanish, we use two tenses: the conditional and subjunctive. Learn the corresponding formulas and conjugations in this lesson.

If-Then Statements and Hypotheticals

If you were an animal what would you be? If you had a million dollars, what would you do? These types of situations are hypothetical and most likely will never happen. You will never be an animal and you probably do not have a million dollars.

However, these are still fun to talk about and we do so often. Expressing these thoughts in Spanish can be a bit tricky as you need to use two different tenses, one in each clause of your statement. More than likely, these statements will begin with the Spanish word si ('if'). To form these types of sentences, we use the following formula:

Si + verb in the imperfect subjunctive tense + verb in the conditional tense.

For example:

  • Si yo fuera rica, viajaría el mundo. (If I were rich, I would travel the world.)

Fuera is the imperfect subjunctive of ser, and viajaríais the conditional of viajar.

Let's have a look at how to form the imperfect subjunctive tense.

The Imperfect Subjunctive

Forming the imperfect subjunctive tense can be a bit tricky. For starters, we need to find the correct stem to use to add our imperfect subjunctive endings. The imperfect subjunctive stem = the third person plural (ellos/as, ustedes) preterit WITHOUT the -ron. Let's look at some examples of finding the imperfect subjunctive stem:

Infinitive Meaning 3rd Person
Preterit Form
Imperfect
Subjunctive
Stem
ser to be fueron fue-
estar to be estuvieron estuvie-
tener to have tuvieron tuvie-
ir to go fueron fue-
poder to be able to pudieron pudie-
saber to know supieron supier-

Now that you have an idea of how to find the imperfect subjunctive stem. Let's have a look at the verb endings for the imperfect subjunctive. These endings are the same for all -AR, -ER, or -IR verbs.

Subject Pronoun Imperfect
Subjunctive
Ending
yo -ra
-ras
él/ella/usted -ra
nosotros/as -ramos
vosotros/as -rais
ellos/ellas/ustedes -ran
  • Examples:
    • Si pudieramos volar... (If we could fly...)
    • Si tuvieras un milón de dólares... (If you had a million dollars...)
    • Si yo fuera un animal... (If I were an animal...)
    • Si él supiera todo... (If he knew everything...)

Translation: If pigs could fly...
flying pig

The Conditional Tense

Now that we know how to form the first part of our clause using the imperfect subjunctive, we need to understand how to form the conditional tense. We will use the conditional tense in the secnd part of our clause - the 'then what?' part. If pigs could fly...then what? If I had a million dollars...then what?

Like the imperfect subjunctive, the conditional tense has the same endings for all -AR, -ER, and -IR verbs. These endings are adding directly onto the verb in the infinitive form.

Subject Pronoun -AR, -ER, -IR Ending
yo -ía
-ías
él/ella/usted -ía
nosotros/as -íamos
vosotros/as -íais
ellos/as/ustedes -ían

Let's have a look at some examples:

Verb Meaning Subject Pronoun Conditional Tense
estar to be yo estaría
ir to go irías
comer to eat nosotros/as comeríamos
hablar to talk él/ella/usted hablaría
ser to be vosotros/as seríais
vivir to live ellos/ellas/ustedes vivirían

Putting It All Together

You now have an idea on how to form both the conditional tense and the imperfect subjunctive tense. Now, we can put these two tenses together to create our hypothetical statements. Remember, we use the formula:

Si + imperfect subjunctive + conditional

Examples:

  • Si fuéramos ricos compraríamos un yate. (If we were rich, we would buy a yacht.)
  • Si Miguel tuviera alas, volaría sobre el océano. (If Miguel had wings, he would fly over the ocean.)
  • Si mi gato pudiera hablar, diría que 'tengo hambre'. (If my cat could talk, she would say 'I'm hungry.')
  • ¿Si fueras un animal, lo que serías? (If you were an animal, what would you be?)

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