Using the Conditional in Spanish I

Conditional sentences are a kind of subordinate sentences. As we can deduct, they allow us to express conditions. Depending on the verbal tenses we are using, we can articulate different meanings.

Si llueve (y no tienes paraguas) te mojas

In order to understand this kind of sentence, it is helpful to divide them into two separate clauses. Let’s see an example:

Si llueve, te mojas → (If it rains, you get wet).

  • The first clause, «Si llueve», is expressing the condition. If we change the verbal tense of this clause, we are changing our perception of the odds. For example, for the First Conditional, we tend to use the Present Simple. Hence, we settle high odds for the rain.
  • The second clause, «te mojas», is expressing the consequence. This consequence could be an assertion, a petition, a command, etc. Depending on that, we will use different verbal tenses. In our example, we are just declaring something, so we use the Present Simple.

Actually, when we talk about Spanish grammar, we are so much free than we expected at the beginning. It is usual in grammar (the same happen when we talk about the Subjunctive or the Past Simple), and it is essential to have it in mind. Grammar is not a pile of fixated one-way rules. Grammar, like vocabulary, is a tool for us to express ideas full of nuances.
Depending on what we want to say, we can use one or another structure.

In this post, we are going to take a look at different combinations. For that, we are going to use the Present Simple in the condition clause systematically.

Affirmative Conditionals

That is the plane and typical structure. We will express it using the Present Simple or the Future Simple in the consequence clause.

However, we should have into account something important. In this type of conditional sentence, we can only use the Present Simple to express the condition. We are never going to use the Future Simple or the Present Conditional tenses. For example:

  • Si lloverá, te mojas  (If it will rain, you get wet).
  • Si llovería, te mojas (If it would rain, you get wet).

Present Simple

We use the Present Simple tense in both clauses when we consider the odds of something to happen and the odds of that to have consequences high. For example:

  • Si el agua llega a 100ºC, hierve (If you heat water to 100 degrees, it boils).
  • Si mañana tengo dinero, me compro un libro → (If I have enough money tomorrow, I buy a book). → I am pretty sure that I will buy a book if I have money. I use the Present Simple because I want to keep the experience close to me.

Future Simple

As in the previous part, here we consider the odds of something happening high. However, we are not as much committed to the consequences as before. That is the reason we can use this for threats.

Pantera rosa
«Pink Panters» are these weird oversweetened Spanish buns with a pink topping and white filling.
  • Si llueve y no llevas paraguas te mojarás → (If it rains and you are not carrying an umbrella, you will get wet). → Estoy afirmándolo, pero también hay una amenaza implícita.

To display this structure, we can also use the periphrasis. «ir a + infinitivo» (going to + infinitive):

  • Si comes tantas panteras rosas vas a enfermar → (If you eat so many Pink Panthers, you are going to get sick). → De nuevo, estamos haciendo una afirmación pero también hay una amenaza implícita.

Commanding Conditionals

That is quite a simple structure. What do we tend to use when we want to be bossy? The Imperative. Therefore, we will use the Imperative for the consequence.

Si caes en esa casilla ve a la cárcel
  • Si sales pronto del trabajo compra calabacines → (If you finish your work early, buy zucchini). → Creo que es una posibilidad que vayas a salir pronto del trabajo y te doy la orden de que compres calabacines.
  • Si coges esa carta ve a la cárcel, ve directamente a la cárcel. No pases por la casilla de salida y no recaudes los 200$ (If you take that card, go to jail, go directly to jail. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200). 

«Asking for things» Conditionals

The difference between asking for things and commanding for things is almost insignificant. When we want to order something, we are more straightforward. However, when we want to ask for something, we could beat the bush or be politer. That is why we are going to use the Conditional tense in the consequence clause.

  • ¿Si sales pronto de trabajar podrías comprar calabacines? → (Could you buy zucchini if you finish your work early?).
  • ¿Te importaría traerme agua si vas a la cocina? → (Could you bring me some water if you go to the kitchen?).

Assumptions and Suggestions

Finally, we can use Conditional sentences for assumpting and suggesting. In that case, we express the consequence with the Conditional tense. However, opposed to the previous section, we do not use interrogative sentences:

  • Si das la vuelta al mundo yo te podría acompañar →( If you want to go around the world, I could go with you.)
  • Si viajo de nuevo a Londres esta vez me montaría en el London Eye → (If I go back to London, I would get on the London Eye).

Overall, we can trace the same pattern in any sentence. When I use the Present Simple, I am keeping the experience close to me. When I use the Conditional, however, I am keeping it a little farther to me.

  • Si viajo de nuevo a Londres → me parece posible viajar de nuevo a Londres.
  • Si llueve → me parece posible que llueva.

Sin embargo, en el primer caso montar en el London Eye es solo una suposición, no lo afirmo, no estoy segura de que vaya a hacerlo. En el segundo caso estoy bastante segura de que me voy a mojar, por eso lo afirmo.

En general, podemos ver un patrón en cualquier tipo de oración. There are several reasons for moving away from us an experience. For example:

  • I may want to express that I am not sure whether something is going to happen or not. 
  • I may want to be polite in a restaurant. 
  • I may want to soften and advise. 

Can you think about any other situation in which you might want to talk about an experience and move it away from you?

If you want to take a look at other Conditional sentences, you can also check:

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