Expressing regrets in Spanish is one of the most difficult moments for a human being. Regrets eat you up. Worst of all, we cannot change our past. However, we all go around in our heads thinking about how we could have done things better.

Our language is very rich in variants for hypothesizing the past. With them we can think of parallel universes that could be the consequence of thousands of options we could have chosen, but never did.

Today, we are going to learn some structures for expressing regrets in Spanish.

The Third Conditional for Expressing Regrets in Spanish

One of the expressions we use the most to show our regrets is the third conditional. If you don’t know what we are talking about, take a few minutes to read this article about conditional propositions in Spanish. Remember that you have at your disposal the grammar resources section at Spanishviaskype.com.

Let’s remember the structure of the third conditional:

Si + past perfect subjunctive + conditional perfect

Si hubiera estudiado más, habría aprobado el examen DELE.

The Perfect Infinitive and Regrets

Surely all our readers know what an infinitive is in Spanish. In fact, it is essential to know it in order to learn how to conjugate a verb. However, not everyone will know that there are two types of infinitive: imperfect (also called simple) and perfect (or compound).

The latter is formed with the imperfect infinitive of the verb haber and the participle of the main verb: Haber hablado, haber comido, haber vivido.

When the perfect infinitive is preceded by the preposition de, it is equivalent to the third conditional that we saw earlier and it is often used for expressing regrets in Spanish. This is how it is formed:

De + haber + participle + conditional perfect

De haber cogido el tren, habría llegado a tiempo a mi cita

 

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Expressing Regrets in Spanish with the Verb Llegar

The verb llegar in Spanish can also express regrets when it is part of a periphrasis. Don’t forget to take a look at this article if you don’t remember what Spanish verbal periphrases are.

The structure for expressing regrets in Spanish with the verb llegar is as follows:

Si + llegar (present indicative) a + infinitive + conditional perfect (less likely)

Si llegas a comprar esa casa, habrías sido feliz en ella.

 

Si + llegar (present indicative) a + infinitive + present indicative (very likely)

Si llego a comer más, exploto.

Debería or no Debería: the Eternal Question

We often use the conditional of the verb deber to express advice: Deberías estudiar más. However, when we use the perfect infinitive, instead of the imperfect, its meaning changes drastically. The new structure expresses regret. Let’s see how it is formed:

(No) Debería + infinitive perfect

Debería haber preparado mejor la entrevista de trabajo. No debería haber dudado tanto.

We really wish you never had to regret anything in your life. However, expressing regrets in Spanish might be necessary for you. If you want to learn more structures and put them into practice, feel free to reserve classes at Spanishviaskype.com.