Table of contents Chapter 9 9.2.5 Irrealis of the past tense

Chapter 9: Subjuntivo, Conditional und Imperative

  9.2.5 Irrealis of the past tense

The Irrealis of the past tense indicates that everything is actually too late and we sit afterwards and think If we had done things differently we would have been rich now. The English grammar says that this kind of sentences are created with the past perfect and the conditional perfect.

If the dog hadn't eaten (past perfect) the lottery ticket we would have won (conditional perfect) the 10 million Euro. (but the dog has eaten the lottery ticket and we did not win)

The Spanish Irrealis is formed with the subjuntivo plusquamperfecto in the si-sentence and the condicional perfecto in the second part of the sentence.

Le habría dado el dinero,
si me lo hubiera (hubiese) pedido.
I would have given him the money,
if he had asked me.
Habríamos construido la casa,
si hubieramos tenido dinero.
We would have built the house,
if we had had the money.*
Él habría ido a España,
si no se hubiera quebrado una pierna.
He would have gone to Spain,
if he hadn't broken his leg.
Os habríamos regalado algo,
si hubiéramos sabido qué os hace falta.
We would have given you something,
if we had known what you need.

* in this example the second sentence could also be if we have had the money, but actually it is only a question of phonetics. It just sounds better. Grammatically the correct form is had had.