9.2 conditional

In English you'll find the conditional in many different situations. The first and most regulated standard you'll find in the conditional clauses.

If I had money, I would buy a big car, a house and a yacht.
If you were nicer, she would marry you right away.
If he were still with us, the world would be a better place.

Furthermore, we use the conditional usually to be polite to express something a bit vaguer.

A: Would you like to go to dinner with me?
B: Oh, I really would love to but I already have eaten.

A: Would you mind and tell me what you did yesterday?
B: Yes, of course I would mind!

A: I would like to have a coffee, please.
B: Here you are, would you care for some sugar and milk?

Enough of examples! You see the conditional in English is with us all the time. Moreover, it is quite easy to form:
Just take the simple past of a modal verb to will => would (is the most common), but there are possibilities to form conditionals with to can => could, to may => might, to shall => should and the verb. The English conditional can be formed in present tense and in past tense.

conditional in English
conditional present
conditional perfect
to will he would be perfect he would have been perfect
to can she could be beautiful she should have been beautiful
to shall it should work out it should have worked out
to may you might have success you might have had success
to ought to* he ought to work more he ought to have worked more

Anyway, the condicional in Spanish is used mostly in conditional clauses. There are three different one of those.

  1. Realis = close to reality

If he has money he buys a car.
= Si tiene dinero, se compra un coche.

explanation: It is quite likely that he will have money some day and then it is sure he will buy a car.

  2. Irrealis of the present = unreality in present tense

If he had money he would buy a car.
= Si tuviera dinero, se compraría un coche.

explanation: It's actually quite unlikely that he will have money (there might be a small chance), but if he had then he would buy a car!

  3. Irrealis of the past = unreality in past tense

If he had had money, he would have bought a car.
= Si hubiera tenido dinero, se habría comprado un coche.

explanation: We definitely know that he didn't have money and he didn't buy the car.

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