"If" in Spanish... how to use it

"If" in Spanish... how to use it

Sometimes people get confused with the combinations of "si" (if). Do you have to use subjunctive after or not?

Well, these are the options:

Reminder before we go into it:
with accent mark means "yes".
Si without accent mark means "if"

With indicative

If...that happens

Here it can be a condition on something that might or might not happen.


If you can say "when" instead of "if", it's something that happens regularly or it can.

Si + condition in present or near future + consequence in present, future or present subjunctive.


Si + condition present + consequence present
Si llueve no salgo a correr (if it rains I don't go running)

It might rain. I can say "when it rains, I don't go running".

Si + condition future + consequence future
Si vas a enfadarte no voy a hablar contigo (if you're going to get mad, I'm not going to talk to you)

You can get angry. It might or might not happen, totally possible.

Si + condition present + consequence present subjunctive
Si lo contratas es importante que sepas como es (if you hire him, it's important that you know how he is)

It's very possible that you hire him.

What if

This is also in indicative, in present tense. The combination "y si..." in a question means "what if":


¿Y si vamos al teatro? - What if we go to the theater. - In this case to suggest something.

¿Y si me caigo? - What if I fall? - In this case to present a possibility.

With subjunctive

If it's hypothetical, you're imagining what someone would do if X happens.
But it's actually not very possible or it doesn't happen often.

Si+ condition imperfect subjunctive + consequence conditional


Si fuera famosa tendría una ONG (if I were famous I'd have a charity)

It's not impossible, but pretty hypothetical that I become famous. It's not something you expect happening.

Si me escucharas, entenderías (if you listened to me, you would understand)

You could listen, but you don't often do it. It's a hypothetical situation.

If that had happened...

When you add "haber" in one or both parts, saying "if something happened now/ had happened before, something else would have happened".

It's not only highly hypothetical but impossible, because the sentence is in the past so it's not reversible.

Haber with one of them

Si + verb in imperfect subjunctive + habría (haber in conditional) + participle.

Si prestara atención en clase habría aprobado el examen (if I paid attention in class I would have passed the exam)

with haber in both

Si + hubiera (haber in imperfect subjunctive)+ participle + habría (haber in conditional) + participle.

Si hubiera prestado atención en clase habria aprobado el examen (if I had paid attention in class, I would have passed the exam)

I didn't pay attention and I didn't pass the exam. After the fact, I reflect on what could have had happened.

NOTE: I'm talking about first and second part. Normally it goes in the order I've explained, but it can be the other way around, that is consequence + if + condition:

Me quedaré en casa si hace mal tiempo - I'll stay at home if it's bad weather.

In this case we have: Future + si + present.

The combination is the same, but the "if" can be at the beginning or in the middle.

Hope that makes sense :)


Read these sentences and try to understand why they have subjunctive or indicative in them:

1- Si pudiera ver el futuro, compraría lotería
If I could see the future, I'd buy lottery.

2- Si vas a la fiesta, yo también voy
If you go to the party, I also go.

3- Si te sientes mal, te voy a llevar al médico
If you feel bad, I'm going to take you to the doctor.

4- Se pondrá el vestido si salimos
She'll put the dress on if we go out.

5- Si no hubiera encontrado esta mesa, habría tirado la toalla
If hadn't found this table, I would have thrown in the towel.

6- ¿Y si suspendo este examen? - What if I fail this test?

7- Si hace ese trabajo, es importante que aprenda de ello
If she does that job, it's important that she learns from it.

¡Hasta la próxima! without "ifs"! ;)