languages like French and also Spanish have the specialty
of the subjunctive. The subjunctive is one of the most
complicated chapter in the Spanish grammar together
maybe with the sequence of tenses. The reason for this
is that there is nothing alike in the English grammar.
Since one of the uses for the subjuntivo
are conditional clauses some might think that
it is similar to the conditional. Unfortunately the subjuntivo
is much more complicated than that.
In English conditional clauses are
formed with a combination of past
tense and conditional.
If I had
money I would buy
a car. = Si tuviera
dinero, me compraría un coche
The Spanish uses the subjuntivo
(in the first half of the sentence, the one with si)
for this purpose. In the second half the conditional
First thing we notice is that there
is a subjuntivo
and a conditional. Which actually means that the subjuntivo
cannot be identical with the English conditional (since
there is still a Spanish conditional to relate to).
The idea to differentiate between
an imagined, desired, feared or hoped situation and
the reality is more common than thought, developing
a clear set of rules and a clear morphology to form
sentences of this kind. Not only Roman languages know
the subjunctive but even Persian
mitarsam che u beravid = I fear that
he would come. (Man mitarsam che u miravad
The Persian "subjuntivo"
the eltezami is absolute
identical with the subjuntivo of Roman languages, even
in small details. The formation is clear and stable
and native speakers notice when used incorrectly.
are some situation that are unclear, you do not know
what will be the result
- a certain form of the verb is needed
We will give
it to him when he has paid us.
Actually you do not know whether
he is going to pay or not. Therefore, you cannot be sure
that you will ever give it to him. The English version
is - if one might say so - not quite exact at two points.
First the future says definitely that we will give it
to him, second perfect actually has the meaning of something
that happened in the (timely close) past that has an
influence on the present. When thinking about it
the payment did not actually happen. Well, let's not
get too confused. Just for you to know. The Spanish
have a solution that is exact and can't be misunderstood.
example for the English impreciseness
insulted me then he talked to me as if nothing
shows that the situation is actually not real. However, the
sentence is put into past perfect (which is used to
describe actions that have happened before something
else happened). Again also for this situation the Spanish
have a construction that doesn't give room for doubts.
Primero me insultó y después me habló
como si no hubiera ocurrido nada.
know anything that would be interesting for
This unreal sentence (that would
be interesting for us) is put into conditional even
though there is no condition related to this sentence.
The Spaniard says:
No sabe nada que nos pueda interesar.
There are loads of examples
for this kind of assumptions. For instance:
There is nobody who knows. / There
is nobody who would know. / There is nobody who could
There is nobody who bakes a cake. / There is nobody
who would bake a cake. / There is nobody who could bake
No hay nadie que sepa.
No hay nadie que haga un pastel.
Three possibilities for one sentence
and if looking at it closely all three are somehow imprecise.
And since the Spaniards actively use the subjuntivo
and it's not only something in old books we'll now have
a look at it a bit more closely.