A Simple Intermediate Guide to Subjunctive Conditional Spanish
We use subjunctive conditional Spanish to talk about hypothetical possibilities that probably won’t happen in real life.
If you were a color, what would you be? If you had magic powers, what would you do?
These types of situations are hypothetical and most likely will never happen. You’ll probably never be a color or a wizard.
However, these kinds of dreamy, “what-if” topics are fun to talk about, and as an intermediate Spanish learner, you’re ready to learn how!
Keep reading to learn the subjunctive conditional Spanish formulas and conjugations.
Introduction to Subjunctive Conditional Spanish
To express these hypothetical or far-out kinds of thoughts in Spanish, you need to use two verb tenses, one in each clause of the sentence.
These statements typically start with the Spanish word si (“if”). Use the following formula:
Si + imperfect subjunctive verb + conditional verb
Si yo fuera soltera, viajaría a Asia.
If I were single, I would travel to Asia.
Fuera is the imperfect subjunctive form of ser, and viajaría is the conditional form of viajar.
How to Form the Imperfect Subjunctive
We use the imperfect subjunctive in the first clause of the sentence—the si clause.
The imperfect subjunctive stem is the third person plural (ellos/as, ustedes) preterite, without the -ron at the end.
The past subjunctive of all Spanish verbs is formed by changing the ending of the third person plural (ellos) of the preterite from -ron to one of the endings below. No need to differentiate the endings for -ar versus -er and -ir verbs!
|Subject||Past Subjunctive Verb Ending|
For example, let’s look at the regular –ar verb estudiar (“to study”).
The past subjunctive Spanish conjugations are:
- Yo estudiara
- Tú estudiaras
- Nosotros estudiáramos
- Ellos estudiaran
The same goes for regular –er and –ir verbs.
When you use the verb comer (“to eat”), conjugate it first to its third person plural form (they) in the preterite tense:
Now remove the -ron and you have comier-. This is your stem.
The past subjunctive Spanish conjugations for comer are:
- Yo comiera
- Tú comieras
- Nosotros comiéramos
- Ellos comieran
PRO TIP! Note that the nosotros verb form uses an accent mark on the syllable before the verb ending -amos.
How to Form the Conditional Tense
Next, we need to understand how to form the conditional tense. We use the conditional tense in the second clause—the “then” part of the statement. If I could be any color, then what? If I had a magic power, then what?
Good news! Just 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||Conditional Verb Ending|
Take a look at some examples:
Yo estaría en Tahití ahora.
I would be in Tahiti now.
Comeríamos comida vegana todos los días.
We would eat vegan food every day.
Yo leería los libros.
I would read the books.
Ana iría a Italia.
Ana would go to Italy.
Forming Sentences in Subjunctive Conditional Spanish
Combining the simple conditional with the pretérito imperfecto de subjuntivo (imperfect subjunctive) is one of the most common ways to express wishes in Spanish.
¡Felicidades! You now know how to form both the conditional tense and the imperfect subjunctive tense. Now, we can put these two tenses together to create statements in subjunctive conditional Spanish.
Si pudiera viajar, yo estaría en Tahití ahora.
If I could travel, I would be in Tahiti now.
Si tuviéramos un chef personal, comeríamos comida vegana todos los días.
If we had a personal chef, we would eat vegan food every day.
Si ella hablara italiano, Ana iría a Italia.
If she spoke Italian, Ana would go to Italy.
Si mi gato pudiera hablar, diría “te quiero.”
If my cat could talk, she would say “I love you.”
Pro-Tip: Did you know that Spanish has another form of conditional? It’s a compound form that uses the verb haber (to have) plus past participles (usually with -ado, -ido endings). This is called the conditional perfect. Here is an example:
Habrías querido que el hotel tuviera una piscina.
You would have wanted the hotel to have a pool.
How to Form the Past Perfect Subjunctive
To make a different form of subjunctive conditional Spanish statement, take the imperfect subjunctive that we used above and turn it into the past perfect subjunctive.
The past perfect subjunctive is common when discussing past hypotheticals, conditionals, and past actions preceding other past actions.
Remember, all Spanish grammar structures that contain the word “perfect” use a similar formula when it comes to conjugation:
hubiera/hubieras/hubiéramos/hubieran + past participle of the main verb (-ado/-ido)
To form the past participle, -ado to the stem of -ar verbs (volar – volado). Add -ido to the stem of –er and -ir verbs (e.g. tener – tenido, dormir – dormido).
This gives us phrases like hubiera volado (“I would have flown”), which you can use to make subjective conditional sentences.
Si hubiera tenido más tiempo, hubiera volado a Canadá.
Si hubiera tenido más tiempo, habría volado a Canadá.
If I had had more time, I would have flown to Canada.
It is even possible to combine the conditionals! For example:
Si hubiera ahorrado más dinero antes, no necesitaría trabajar tanto ahora.
If I would have saved more money before, I wouldn’t need to work so much now.
The things that you did or didn’t do in your imaginary past can also affect your imaginary present. With this lesson under your belt, you can now practice constructing your own imaginary situations with a variety of conditional sentences. The possibilities are sinfin!
If You Could Speak Spanish… Then What?
Now that you’ve mastered subjunctive conditional Spanish, are you ready to start using it in conversation? If you’re looking for a native Spanish speaker to practice your new skills with, try a free trial class with one of our awesome certified teachers today! They’re equipped to meet you at your level and are experts at supporting students on their Spanish learning journey.
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