The conditional perfect

  1. Forms.  The conditional perfect is formed by using the conditional
    forms of the helping verb haber with
    the past (or passive) participle:

    yo habría hablado/comido/vivido
    habrías hablado/comido/vivido
    él/ella/usted habría hablado/comido/vivido
    nosotros/nosotras habríamos hablado/comido/vivido
    vosotros/vosotras habríais hablado/comido/vivido
    ellos/ellas/ustedes habrían hablado/comido/vivido

    (I would have spoken/eaten/lived)

  2. Usage.  It is used primarily to indicate something hypothetical
    or unreal in past time, in a context where the subjunctive is not required
    such as in the main clause of a sentence:

    Sí, yo habría ido a la luna. Yes, I would have gone to the moon [but they didn't ask me].

  • Real vs. unreal conditions
    1. A real condition is one which may actually come about or at least
      is viewed as a possibility; thus, in Spanish, the indicative is normally
      used both in the “if”clause and in the main part of the sentence:

      Si ella viene mañana, iremos al cine. If she comes tomorrow [she may actually come], we will
      to the movies.
      Si nieva mucho, podré esquiar. If it snows a lot [it may really snow], I can

      Note that the English versions of the above conditions suggest the indicative
      by the lack of hypothesis-suggesting words such as “would”, and
      by not using the past tense to refer to a present-time situation.

    2. In contrast, an unreal or contrary-to-fact
      is one which will not come about or is viewed as being completely
      hypothetical. In this case, the “if” clause in normally in a past
      subjunctive tense, and the main verb is in a conditional tense.

      1. Present or future time situations. The imperfect subjunctive is used
        in the “if” clause, and the conditional in the main clause:

        Si yo fuera rico compraría un coche. If I were rich [I am not rich] I would buy
        a car.
        ¿Qué harías si fueras presidente? What would you do if you were president? [you aren't]
        Si Juana estuviera aquí, ¿le dirías
        la verdad?
        If Juana were here [she isn't here], would you tellher the truth?

        Past time situations. Past perfect subjunctive in the “if”
        clause, conditional perfect in the main clause:

        Si la hubiera visto, habría dicho algo. If I had seen her [I didn't see her] I would have
        Si hubieras venido, te habrías divertido
        If you had come [you didn't come] you would have
        had a great time
        ¿Habrías ido a la fiesta si yo la hubiera
        Would you have gone to the party if I had planned
        [I didn't plan it]

  • Reminders/tips
    1. The present subjunctive is NOT used after si
    2. In unreal conditions the standard pattern is a past subjunctive in the
      “if”clause and a conditional tense in the main clause:

      “if” clause main clause time aspect
      si + imperfect subjunctive conditional present/future time actions (but expressed by the past tense
      in both English and Spanish)
      Si hablaras, te creerían.
      If you spoke, they would believe you.
      si + past perfect subjunctive conditional perfect past time actions (expresed by previous-past time tenses both
      in English and Spanish)
      Si hubieras hablado, te habrían creído.
      If you had spoken, they would have believed you.
    3. There are frequent tip-offs in English sentences that the conditional/past
      subjunctive combination is required in the corresponding Spanish sentence.
      (Compare with the examples above):

      1. Use of the past tense (“spoke”) in the “if” clause to
        indicate a present/future situation. (“If you spoke [right
      2. Use of the word “would” in the main clause to indicate conjecture
        for present/future time. (“…they would believe you [now or
        in the future]”).
      3. Use of “would have” to in either clause to indicate
        conjecture/hypothesis in past time.   (“…they would have
        believed you”).

via The Conditional, Conditional Perfect, and “If” Clauses in Spanish.

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