Conditional Clauses in Spanish Grammar

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What is a conditional clause?

Conditional clauses (oraciones condicionales) express an action that will only take place under certain conditions: if … then …

They are formed with a main clause and a conditional dependent clause (often introduced by 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.»

First Conditional: si + present indicative

The first conditional expresses a real condition that is likely to happen (maybe I’ll have time).

First conditional sentences are formed as follows:

  • si-clause: si + presente
  • main clause: presente/futuro de indicativo
Example:
Si tengo tiempo, te ayudaré.If I have time, I’ll help you.
Si tengo tiempo, te ayudo.If/When I have time, I help you.

We use the future tense in the main clause to refer to specific situations. We use the present tense in the main clause to refer to things that are always or generally true.

Second Conditional: si + imperfect subjunctive

The second conditional expresses an impossible/hypothetical condition in the present (I don’t have time, but if I did …).

Second conditional sentences are formed as follows:

  • si-clause: si + imperfecto de subjuntivo
  • main clause: condicional simple
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.

Third Conditional: si + past perfect subjunctive

The third conditional expresses an impossible situation in the past (I didn’t have time, but if I had had time …).

Third conditional sentences in Spanish are formed as follows:

  • si-clause: si + pluscuamperfecto de subjuntivo
  • main clause: condicional perfecto or pluscuamperfecto de subjuntivo
Example:
Si hubiese/hubiera tenido tiempo, te habría/hubiera/hubiese ayudado.If I had had time, I would have helped you.

Notes on Punctuation

We can switch the order of the clauses with no change in meaning.

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

The only difference is the comma.

Use a comma after the si-clause when it comes first; don’t use a comma when the main clause comes first.

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.