Conditional Clauses in Spanish Grammar

Introduction

Conditional clauses (oraciones condicionales) express an action that will only take place under certain conditions. They are formed with a main clause and a conditional dependent clause (often introduced by the conjunction si). In Spanish grammar, there are three types of conditional clauses: the first conditional expresses realistic/likely situations, the second conditional expresses hypothetical/unrealistic situations and the third conditional expresses an imaginary situation in the past.

Learn about the different types of conditional sentences in Spanish grammar, then test your grammar skills in the exercises.

Example

Mamá: «Marcos, hoy voy a hacer un pastel, ¿me ayudas?»

Marcos: «Si tengo tiempo esta tarde, te ayudo.»

Mamá: «Marcos, puedes ayudarme a hacer un pastel?»

Marcos: «Si tuviese tiempo, te ayudaría. Pero tengo que hacer los deberes»

Mamá: «El pastel está listo. ¡Me dijiste que querías ayudarme!»

Marcos: «Si hubiese tenido tiempo, te habría ayudado. Pero tenía que hacer los deberes.»

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Type I – Real Condition

Here we describe a condition that we believe is or will be fulfilled (maybe I’ll have time later). We use the presente de indicativo in the dependent clause and the futuro or presente de indicativo in the main clause.

Example:
Si tengo tiempo, te ayudaré/ayudo.If I have time, I’ll help you.

Type II – Unreal Condition (Present)

Here we describe a condition that is not fulfilled in the present (I don’t have time). We use the imperfecto de subjuntivo in the dependent clause and the condicional simple in the main clause.

Example:
Si tuviera/tuviese tiempo, te ayudaría.If I had time, I would help you.

To Note

This kind of conditional sentence can also express a condition that is not fulfilled in the future.

Example:
Si tuviera tiempo mañana, te ayudaría.If I had time tomorrow, I would help you.

Type III – Unreal Condition (Past)

Here we describe a condition that was not fulfilled in the past (I didn’t have time). We use the pluscuamperfecto de subjuntivo in the dependent clause and the condicional perfecto or the pluscuamperfecto de subjuntivo in the main clause.

Example:
Si hubiese/hubiera tenido tiempo, te habría/hubiera/hubiese ayudado.If I had had time, I would have helped you.

Notes on Punctuation

When the si-clause comes after the main clause, we don’t use a comma.

Example:
Te ayudaré/ayudo si tengo tiempo.I’ll help you if I have time.
Te ayudaría si tuviera/tuviese tiempo.I would help you if I had time.
Te habría/hubiera/hubiese ayudado si hubiese/hubiera tenido tiempo.I would have helped you if I had had time.