Conditional clauses in Spanish mark a difference between intermediate and advanced students. Conditions can show a realistic requirement that must be met. On the other hand, a condition might have a nuance of subjectivity that shows improbability, incredulity or hypothesis. Here we have the eternal fight between indicative and subjunctive in the Spanish language.
What are conditional clauses?
First of all, a conditional clause is a subordinate sentence that introduces circumstances or requirements that validate the action in the main clause. In other words, it’s necessary to fulfill the requisites in the secondary clause to get the main one done.
For example: Si mañana no llueve, iremos al parque. So, if it doesn’t rain tomorrow, we will go to the park. The requirement is clear, it mustn’t rain, otherwise, we will stay at home.
The concept is clear, but the typology of conditional clauses is not so simple.
What types of conditional clauses in Spanish are there?
Depending on the speaker’s intention, we can differentiate up to four types of these sentences. The most popular word that introduces conditional clauses is “si” (if), followed by different verbal tenses.
Zero conditional clauses
“Zero conditional clauses” express a universally known fact or an undeniable truth. It’s very used to formulate scientific laws. They are formed using the present indicative in both clauses, the main and the subordinate ones: si + presente de indicativo + presente de indicativo
For example: Si enfriamos agua hasta los 0˚C., se congela. If we cool water to 0˚C., it get frozen. It’s a physical law, a universally known fact.
First conditional clauses
“First conditional clauses” show two different intentions. We can use them to make likely predictions (si + presente de indicativo + future simple) or to give advises (si + presente de indicativo + imperativo)
For example: Si estudias español en Spanishviaskype.com, aprobarás el examen DELE. If you study Spanish at Spanishviaskype.com, you will pass the DELE exam. We express a prediction that, in our opinion, is likely to happen.
Second conditional clauses
“Second conditional clauses” are used to express hypothetical situations in the present or the future. The main intention is to show that is unlikely to happen or even impossible. They are formed using si + imperfect subjuntivo + condicional simple.
For example: Si yo fuera español, no necesitaría aprender español en la universidad. If I were Spanish, I wouldn’t need to learn Spanish at the university. It’s an impossible hypothesis due to the fact that my nationality is not Spanish.
Si me tocara la lotería, compraría un coche nuevo. If I won the lottery, I would buy a new car. It’s not an impossible prediction but it’s unlikely to happen.
Third conditional clauses
“Third conditional clauses” show unreal conditions. Since the time frame is the past, the hypothesis are impossible (we can’t change the past, unfortunately!). They use three different options:
- Si + pluscuamperfecto subjuntivo + condicional compuesto.
For example: Si hubiera hecho el curso de Español de superviviencia, habría podido hablar en español en mi viaje a Madrid. If I had taken the Survival Spanish Course, I would have been able to speak Spanish during my trip in Madrid. The condition is not possible to be fulfilled because I did not take the course, and the consequences (I couldn’t speak Spanish) are set in the past, too.
- Si + pluscuamperfecto subjuntivo + pluscuamperfecto subjuntivo.
For example: Si yo hubiera conocido el sitio web Spanishviaskype.com antes, habría ahorrado mucho dinero en profesores de español. If I had heard about Spanishviaskype.com before, I would have saved much money on Spanish teachers. I cannot change the fact that I didn’t hear about this site before, and the consequences (saving money) are set in the past, too. Actually, it has the same use of the previous clause. It is accepted but it’s considered less normative.
- Si + pluscuamperfecto subjuntivo + condicional simple.
For example: Si hubieras nacido en España, ahora hablarías español. If I had been born in Spain, now, I would speak Spanish. I cannot change the place of my birth, and the consequences (I would speak Spanish now) are set in the present.
In consequence, although nobody likes to have conditions and requirements in their lives, we use this kind of clauses every day. Therefore, si quieres aprender español ahora mismo, reserva una clase de prueba aquí (reserve a trial lesson here). Learning Spanish via Skype is easy and convenient!