Saturday, 9 July 2011

If I were...

I promised to share some examples of the complicated sounding imperfect subjunctive. One common, and not particularly difficult usage is in sentences of the type 'if I were ... I would ...'.

In Spanish, the imperfect subjunctive is used for the first verb (were) and the conditional tense is used for the second verb (after the 'would').

A few examples to clarify:-

Si yo fuera tu, hablaría con ellos. - If I were you I would speak with them.
Si fuera un hombre rico, lo compraría. - If I were a rich man I would buy it.
Si fuéramos mas joven, iríamos a la fiesta. - If we were younger we would go to the party.
Si fueras mas listo, ya sabría - if you were smarter you would already know

The first verb does not have to be 'were'. 'If I had...' phrases are also common, such as this example from Mario Benedetti's 'Esta Mañana'

Si yo hubiera tenido padre et madre, todo habría sido diferente. - If I had had a father and mother, everything would have been different.

Notice that the two 'hads' in the English translation represent diferent verbs in Spanish - 'haber' to indicate the past (perfect) tense and 'tener' to show posession.

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