Spanish Conditional Tense


The conditional tense in Spanish (el condicional o el pospretérito) is used to talk about hypothetical situations and probabilities and to make polite requests. The Spanish conditional tense is formed much like the Spanish simple future tense. Both regular and irregular verbs use the same set of endings, and any stems that are irregular in the simple future are also irregular in the conditional.

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There are three main types of the conditional, with a number of variations within each type. In English, type 1 has a present simple in the “if” clause, and a future simple in the main clause. In Spanish, type 1 has an indicative present simple in the “si” clause and a future or present simple (indicative mood) in the main clause:

Si vienes pronto, iremos a la playa.                   If you come soon, we’ll go to the beach.

Si llueve pronto, nos quedaremos aquí.               If it rains, we will stay here.

The present simple in the main clause is common when the speaker has a high degree of certainty or when the main clause is a decision. Type 2 in English has a past simple in the “if” clause and a conditional tense in the main clause. In Spanish, type 2 has a subjunctive imperfecto in the “si” clause and a conditional tense in the main clause.

Si vinieras pronto, iríamos a la playa.                 If you came soon, we would go to the beach.  

Type 3 in English has a past perfect in the “if” clause and a conditional perfect in the main clause. In Spanish, type 3 has a subjunctive pluscuamperfecto in the “si” clause and a conditional perfect in the main clause:

Si hubieras estudiado más, habrías aprobado.   If you had studied harder, you would have


In addition to “si,” conditional sentences can be structured with “a no ser que” (unless),”a menos que,” “siempre que” (as long as), “con tal (de) que” (provided/providing that), “con la condición de que” (on condition that).

Te dejaré conducir, siempre que                           I will let you drive as long as you promise

prometas que vas a ser cuidadoso.                     that you are going to be careful.

Llegarás tarde, a no ser que te des prisa.             You’ll be late, unless you hurry up.

The expression “in case,” as in “I’ll take an umbrella with me in case it rains, must be translated by “por si.”

Lo ordenaré todo por si viene mi madre.               I’ll tidy everything up in case my mother


“In case of,” translates as “en caso de” in warnings:

En caso de incendio, romper el cristal.                 In case of fire, break the glass.

There are a number of variations that are very similar in both languages:

Si le odias, ¿Por qué fuiste con él?                       If you hate him, why did you go with him?

Si has terminado, puedes irte.                               If you have finished, you can go.

Si estás libre, podrías echarme una mano.           If you are free, you could give me a hand.

“If ” and “I wish” translate as “ojala,” with a connotation of “hopefully,” This expression can be followed by a subjunctive present simple, a subjunctive imperfecto, and a subjunctive pluscuamperfecto:

Ojalá (ella) venga a tiempo                                     If only (let’s hope) she comes in time.

Ojalá (él) nos ayude.                                               If he will help us.

“Will” provokes a subjunctive present simple of the following verb, and “would” causes a subjunctive “imperfecto” to be used.

After “If,” when requesting something politely, “will” translates as the indicative present of “querer,” whereas “would” translates as the subjunctive imperfecto:

Si usted quiere esperar un momento.                     If you will wait a moment.

Si usted quisiera seguirme.                                    If you would follow me.

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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:

Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment). Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters. Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.

Specific Capabilities at this Level

I can write short, simple notes and messages relating to matters in areas of immediate needs. I can write a very simple personal letter, for example thanking someone for something.
Spoken Production:
I can use a series of phrases and sentences to describe in simple terms my family and other people, living conditions, my educational background and my present or most recent job.
Spoken Interaction:
I can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar topics and activities. I can handle very short social exchanges, even though I can’t usually understand enough to keep the conversation going myself.
I can read very short, simple texts. I can find specific, predictable information in simple everyday material such as advertisements, prospectuses, menus and timetables and I can understand short simple personal letters.
I can understand phrases and the highest frequency vocabulary related to areas of most immediate personal relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local area, employment). I can catch the main point in short, clear, simple messages and announcements.