Using the Imperfect Subjunctive with the Conditional in Spanish

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  • 0:01 Conjugating the Verbs…
  • 3:00 Where Would You Go? A…
  • 4:47 'If' Clauses That…
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Chris Travis
This lesson presents a unique combination of tenses, the imperfect subjunctive with the conditional, in order to form hypothetical 'if clauses.' It also reviews a common form of 'if clause' that employs the present tense.

Conjugating the Verbs: Another Look

Si estuvieras en Bolivia, ?a dónde irías? (If you were in Bolivia, where would you go?)

Si estuvieras en México, ?qué harías? (What would you do?)

Si vivieras en Cuba, ?dónde trabajarías? (Where would you work?)

Si estuvieras en Argentina, ?a dónde irías? (If you were in Argentina, where would you go?)

?Yo? Yo iría a las montañas!

One of the best ways to form hypothetical sentences in Spanish, about what would happen if things were different, is with the imperfect or past subjunctive tense (forms such as estuvieras and vivieras) and the conditional tense (forms such as irías, harías, and trabajarías). Let's quickly review what we have learned about how to conjugate the imperfect subjunctive and the conditional tenses in the regular and irregular forms.

For the conditional tense: Keep the infinitive, and add -ía, -ías, -ía, -íamos, -íais, and -ían as needed. Thus, with nadar (to swim), we have:

yo nadaría
tú nadarías
José nadaría
nosotros nadaríamos
vosotros nadaríais
ellos nadarían

You may remember some of the irregulars from complementary lessons. In the yo form, we have things like:

venir: vendría
tener: tendría
poner: pondría
salir: saldría
decir: diría

These are just a few examples.

For the imperfect subjunctive tense: Go to the ellos form of the preterit. Many of these will be irregular, and that's ok. Cut off the …ron ending and replace it with -ra, -ras, -ra, -ramos, -rais, -ran. Thus, with estar, we use the ellos preterite estuvieron to come up with:

yo estuviera
tú estuvieras
José estuviera
nosotros estuviéramos
vosotros estuvierais
ellos estuvieran

The other verb considered earlier was vivir. We have the preterite, ellos vivieron and, therefore, the imperfect subjunctive, viviera. Let's fill in a few more in our table in the yo form:

vivir: viviera
hablar: hablara
saber: supiera
venir: viniera
ir: fuera

Hopefully, this serves as a helpful reminder.

Where Would You Go? A Short Dialogue

Let's listen to a short dialog between Andy and his friend, Sara, as they use some of the same expressions we just learned. Try to understand the use of the conditional and the past subjunctive, but don't be concerned if you do not understand every single word of the conversation. You can watch as the highlighted verbs are separated into separate columns for conditional and imperfect subjunctive (please see the video starting at 03:25).

Andy: Oye, Sara, ?sabías que el gran premio de la lotería ha alcanzado unos cuatro millones de dólares?

Sara: No me digas! Increíble! ?Y tú? Si tuvieras cuatro millones de dólares, ?qué harías?

Andy: Si yo tuviera cuatro millones de dólares, yo viajaría por toda Latinoamérica, empezando en México.

Sara: Y si estuvieras en México, ?qué harías?

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