Using the Conditional in Spanish III

In this post, we are going to top off Conditional Sentences. We have talked about what Conditional Sentences are here, and we have gone deepen here. As we said, with these sentences, we can express different meanings depending on the verbal tenses. That is why we have three different kinds of conditionals.

Today we are going to talk about the Third Conditional. We use Third Conditional mostly to show regret about our past. However, we can also use it to fantasize. For example:

Cuento De Hadas, Vintage, Antigua, Antiguos
Everything is funnier with dragons

Si hubieran existido los dragones, la historia de la humanidad habría sido mucho más divertida → (If dragons had existed, human history would have been a lot more fun).

  • The first clause «Si hubieran existido los dragones» is the condition. Here, we are using Past Perfect Subjunctive because we want to keep it away. But, also, because we want to make the impossibility of this to happen clear.
  • The second clause «la historia de la humanidad habría sido mucho más divertida» expresses the consquence. In this case, we speculate about an impossible reality, something that just could have happened in the past.

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 Past Perfect Subjunctive in the condition clause systematically.

Si + Past Perfect Subjunctive + Past Conditional

As we said above, we use this structure to talk about past events and their consequences. Hence, it is useful when we want to talk about things we can’t change.

Let’s see some examples.

Speculating about the past

Do you know Blade Runner? It is based on a short novel by Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? He is also the author of another less famous book: The Man in the High Castle. It is an uchrony about what could have happened if nazis had won the Second World War. 

Dinastía Tang, Historía de Dinastía Tang, Imperio Tang
Printing was a Chinese invention, not a European one

Cuando hablamos de la historia podemos especular, igual que Philip K. When we talk about history, we can speculate as Philip K. Dick did. For example:

  • Si Colón no hubiera llegado a América, los nativos habrían sido más felices → (If Columbus had not arrived in America, native people would have been happier). 
  • ¿Qué habría pasado si no se hubiera inventado la imprenta? → (What would have happen if printing had not been invented?). 


Imagine you are talking to a child. In this kind of conversation, it is common to ask hypothetical questions to make their imagination fly. For example:

  • ¿Cómo habrían sido tus alas si hubieras nacido dragón? → (How would have been your wings if you were born a dragon?). 


She doesn’t like playing the piano

If you are not getting any young, you will be using these examples the most. This structure allows us to talk about all the things we would have done differently. Growing up is mainly based on this kind of thought.

Even though it is a truth universally acknowledged that it is better to look at the present and the future, we are going to be using these sentences all the time. Here you have some examples:

  • Si hubiera seguido estudiando piano, habría sido una pianista terrible  (If I had continued studying piano, I would have been a terrible pianist).
  • Si Jessica hubiera sabido qué hacer con su vida, habría sido mucho más feliz  (If Jessica had known what to do with her life, she would have been so much happier).

Si + Past Perfect Subjunctive + Past Perfect Subjunctive

We use this structure the same way as the previous one. However, there is a difference: we use the Past Perfect Subjunctive in the second clause if we want to move it away from us. For example:

Goats are probably the best animal
  • Si hubiera sido un animal, habría sido una cabra (If I had been an animal, I would have been a goat). → Here we have a certain degree of compromise with the idea of being a goat. 

But we can also say: 

  • Si hubiera sido un animal, hubiera sido una cabra → (If I had been an animal, I had been a goat). → Here, our compromise is lower. We haven’t thought a lot about what kind of animal we would want to be. Or maybe we have a lot of options, and we are in two minds. 

Si + Past Perfect Subjunctive + Present Simple

It is an unusual structure. For this reason, we are going to use it with a specific expressive aim. For example:

We have sighted a beautiful dog, and we want to talk about it with a dog-lover friend. We can say:

  • Si hubieras estado allí, lo robas (If you had been there, you take him).

In the first clause, the condition, we use the Past Perfect Subjunctive because we can’t go back to the past. In the second clause, we want to make something clear: she would have taken the dog.

Let’s take a look at another example:

A man is yelling obscenities at us, and we share the experience with a friend: 

  • Si hubieras estado allí, lo matas → (If you had been there, you kill him). 

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

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