Si clauses, also known as conditionals or conditional clauses, express“If X, then Y” of a situation. When students at the intermediate level (B1 and above) hear “conditional phrases,” or “conditional clauses,” they automatically think of the conditional in Spanish, but not all these phrases use the conditional mood. In fact, many do not.
Conditional clauses are usually written using si. This si, meaning “if,” is different from sí, which is “Yes” and has an accent over the i. It’s a one-syllable word, so phonetically it’s the pronounced the same way. The accent is used to differentiate between the two words.
Conditional clauses are used to express… You got it, conditions! If you do this, then that can occur. I have identified the six formats for conditional phrases, including those that use the conditional and the subjunctive.
Conditional clauses with present indicative generally express habits or consequences to actions or situations in our everyday lives.
These phrases also express what we take to be logical cause-and-effect ideas or standards:
In all of the above cases, we can substitute the first clause using si by cuando:
As well as the following:
The order of these phrases does not matter. The order of the factors does not affect the product. I can easily say No ganas dinero si no trabajas as Si no trabajas, no ganas dinero.
Note that the latter requires a comma ;).
Many conditional phrases start out with the present indicative mood in the first clause of the phrase, and use the future tense in the second clause.
Note the future in Spanish can be expressed in three ways:
And just to give you a basic idea on conjugating the future, keep the entire root and add the following to any verb.
Estudiar – to study
Let’s see how this works when you use the format si + present indicative + future
The Future Tense in Spanish
For the irregular verbs in the future: 12 Irregular Spanish Verbs in the Future and Conditional
Use conditional phrases with the imperative to tell someone what to do in the event something happens.
To conjugate the imperative, use the tables below.
Ar – estudiar
For er/ir conjugations:
Er/ir – comer
Now, in context. Because English is rather ambiguous when it comes to subject pronouns, it’s interesting to note how different the following conditional phrases are from their English counterparts:
Amazing how it all translates into the same thing, huh? This is essentially what makes Spanish so special :).
Note that vosotros is used in most situations in Spain, while ustedes is reserved for very formal settings. In Latin America, on the other hand, ustedes is used as both the formal and informal plural you. Latin America does not use vosotros. If you want to learn more on formality in Spanish, I have a great article for you: Formality in Spanish: Tú, Usted, Vos, Vosotros, and Ustedes.
Also, remember to be gentle with your commands! A simple por favor goes a long way ;0.
The Imperative: Affirmative Commands in Spanish
Talk about impossibilities! This si clause is used to talk how things would be if they were different. It’s used to refer to the nearly impossible or highly unlikely.
First, a brief overview on conjugating the imperfect subjunctive:
Ar – hablar
To get an idea of how to conjugate a regular er/ir verb in the imperfect subjunctive, refer to the table below:
Make sure not to refer to the imperfect subjunctive as “past subjunctive,” as there is more than one past tense in the subjunctive.
Then, a brief overview on conjugating the conditional. It is very much like the future tense where you keep the entire verb and add an short ending, independently of whether it is an ar, er, or ir verb. The future and the conditional also share all 12 irregular verbs.
Let’s put it together:
The Conditional in Spanish
The “regretful” statements, I call them. They are not my favorites. They are used to talk about something that did not take place and what you would’ve have done if things had been otherwise.
To conjugate the pluperfect subjunctive, all you need to know is the verb haber, which will function as auxiliary verb (otherwise known as helping verb). Conjugate haber using imperfect subjunctive.
As you probably know, auxiliary verbs precede a participle. To get the participle of a verb, follow this format:
With the two together, you will create the pluperfect. In the first clause, you will use the formar si + pluperfect subjunctive and you will do the same in the second clause:
Conditional phrases in this format mean the same as si + pluperfect subjunctive + pluperfect subjunctive but in this case, you will use the pluperfect in the first clause and the perfect conditional in the second clause.
The conditional perfect is created by first getting the conditional for the verb haber.
The conditional of haber acts as auxiliary verb, to which you add the participle. When you put the together you get conditional perfect:
Using the same examples as above, let’s put it all together to get a si clause using the conditional perfect:
As you can see, the translation is the same, and they do in fact mean the same thing.
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Irma is a trained linguist, native Spanish speaker, and teacher. She is the founder and CEO of Diáfano.
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