Unit 13: Past subjunctive, informal commands, translation considerations (part 3)

13.5 Contrary-to-Fact Sentences

The imperfect subjunctive is regularly used in “if” clauses that combine with a main clause that takes a verb in the conditional tense to form contrary-to-fact sentences. These are sentences in which the stated action is clearly untrue or it is unlikely to occur.

Si me mudara allá, me moriría del calor. If I moved (were to move) there, I’d die from the heat.
Si yo fuera tú, trataría de aprobar el examen ya. If I were you, I’d try to pass the exam now.

The order of the clauses may be switched with no change in meaning:

Debido a la humedad, abandonaríamos la costa si fuera verano. Due to the humidity we would leave the coast if it were summer.

After the expression como si (“as if”), which inherently denotes a contrary-to-fact situation or state, the imperfect subjunctive (or past perfect subjunctive [see section 15.1.]) must be used:

Se comporta como si fuese (fuera) príncipe. He acts (behaves) as if he were a prince.
Habla como si supiera (supiese) todo, pero sabe bastante poco. She speaks as if she knew everything, but she knows fairly little.



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