Language Blog

This section is dedicated to tips and tricks for mastering Spanish. This section is pulled,in large part, from the original books that can be found under our products page. We are constantly expanding this section so check back weekly for tips and tricks.

The Conditional

When first learning Spanish we often make the mistake of thinking we can simply translate ideas word for word from one language to another.

After all sometimes we can do exactly that.

However that doesn't always work. Certain words and ideas are simply expressed differently between the two languages, and the conditional is one of those ideas. In English we have the conditional tense and we form it by combining the words would plus a verb in its base form, would + v.base. In English we often use the conditional tense to talk about hypothetical situations. What would have happened if not for something or if the situation were different.

I would help him, but I work tomorrow.

Here we see the combination would + help or would+ v.base

Notice that the conditional tense doesn't actually signal that anything is actually happening, but rather a hypothetical.

I would eat cake if I had some.

Like the sentence before nothing is actually happening. Let's look at the previous examples but in Spanish.

Lo ayudaría pero trabajo mañana.

I would help him but I work tomorrow.

Comería pastel si tuviera un poco.

I would eat cake if I had some.

Did you pick up on the pattern in the Spanish examples? The combination of would + help or would + eat is replaced with the combination infinitive and the correct conditional ending. The conditional endings for all the verbs (ar,er, and ir) are the same and follow the pattern below.

Yo -ía


Él/Ella/Usted - ía

Nosotros- íamos


Yo comería pastel si tuviera un poco

Comer is infinitive and the ending for first person yo is -ía, comería.

Notice we just tack on the ending to the infinitive and that's it.

Pulled from The Quick Guide to Spanish Verb Tenses and rewritten for


Cuyo/a is a relative adjective that means whose in English, and refers back to a noun previously mentioned in the sentence.The fancy way of saying a noun previously mentioned in a sentence is, the antecedent. You just need to know that this adjective will always agree with the number and gender of the thing being owned, not the owner. This trap is so common because usually that's not the case and it's an easy way to trip up students.


The girl, whose father is sick, is very young

La niña, cuyo padre está enfermo, es muy joven

Notice Cuyo here is in the 3rd person singular masculine to match padre, not niña . In this sentence we view the girl as the person in possession of the father. Therefore Cuyo matches padre because that is what is owned by the girl.

Let's switch it up


The Children, whose mother is sick, are very young.

Los niños, cuya madre está enferma, son muy pequeños.

Again notice here Cuya is matching the number and gender of what's being owned which is la madre.

( note the personal ¨a¨ is not used here, and Cuyo can be used to refer back to nouns that are inanimate as well as people.)

Pulled from B2/C1 Spanish Survival Notes and rewritten for

De vs Desde

This topic gave me pause when first leaving B2, mainly because it was so easily understood. I literally never paused to ask why we used one over the other. Both can be translated to ¨from¨ in English which is why it can give English speakers such a headache.

Desde means from, but tends to carry a sense of motion whereas de does not.

De also means from, but is usually describing something permanent or a characteristic, this can also be used to refer to origin.


Soy de Estados Unidos

I am from the United States

Saludos desde Estados Unidos

Greeting from the United States

In the first example the fact that I am from the United States doesn't change nor is it moving. However, in the second example the greetings are making the journey all the way from where they are to you.

Sometimes we can use either De or Desde, but there will be a slight change in interpretation, for example

I walked home from work.

Caminé a casa del trabajo.

Or if we want to put the focus on the journey when can use desde.

Caminé a casa desde el trabajo.

I walked (all the way) home from work.

De is usually paired with -a while desde is usually matched with hasta. Why, because Hasta

means until which puts more focus on the length or duration of whatever happened.

When to choose either.

Verbs with a sense of motion like venir usually are paired with desde.

Verbs that are more static like ser are usually paired with de.


Soy de estados unidos.

I am from the United States

Yo vengo de Estados Unidos.

I come from or I am from the United States( admittedly this sounds weird to me, yet is valid)

Vengo desde estados unidos.

I come (all the way ) from the United States

Do not use desde with cause and effect only de!

Hopefully this clears up this common error in Spanish. Cheers.

Pulled from B2/C1 Spanish Survival Notes and rewritten for

The Imperfect Subjunctive

What is the imperfect subjunctive? The imperfect subjunctive is, simply put, the past subjunctive. It differs from the past perfect subjunctive in that both the desire and situation that produced said desire are in the past. Allow me to illustrate the difference with a few examples.

Espero que hayas disfrutado la clase.

I hope you have enjoyed the class.

The desire is in the present , I hope/Espero. This is a desire that the speaker currently holds. However the class has already happened. Therefore the desire is referring to a past event.

Let's look at an example of the imperfect subjunctive to compare and contrast the two.

Quería que nos ayudara.

I wanted him to help us.

First, the desire is in the past. Quería/ I wanted. Unlike the previous example we can only confirm that the speaker held this desire at some point in the past. We can not confirm that they still do from the information given. You will also notice, from the English example, that the desired, help, was in the past as well, ayudara. We don't expect the help now or in the future. The help, whether it existed or not, was needed or wanted in the past. Notice that the past subjunctive of Ayudar has a different conjugation then the past indicative forms.

For the Imperfect subjunctive there are two possible ending the -ra and -se endings. To form the imperfect subjunctive you take the 3rd person plural preterite of the desired verb. Remove the -ron ending, and add the following endings -ra or -se. -Ra is common in colloquial choice when speaking, while the -se form sounds far more formal.

yo -ra/se

tú -ras/ses

él,ella, usted -ra/se

nosotros -ramos/semos

ellos,ellas,ustedes -ran/sen

(Be careful my friends, the last vowel before these endings in the nosotros forms usually take accent mark i.e camináramos caminásemos)

Quería que nos ayudara.

I wanted him to help us.

Above is our previous example with the -ra ending. However we could have also used the -se ending.

Quería que nos ayudase.

So now we understand that if a idea (Wishes, Emotions, Impersonal expressions, Recommendations, Doubt/Denial, and Ojalá) is expressed in the past it automatically triggers the imperfect subjunctive for the second part of the sentence. Let's look at some variations of this pattern.

I was waiting for you so that we could leave.

Te estaba esperando para que pudiéramos irnos.

So in bold we have a part of the sentence that starts in the past.

I was waiting for you so that we could leave.

Te estaba esperando para que pudiéramos irnos.

However, just because a sentence start is the past that doesn't necessarily mean it is subjunctive, that is until we get to the next bold part, so that /para que. Para que always triggers the subjunctive..

I was waiting for you so that we could leave.

Te estaba esperando para que pudiéramos irnos.

Now, we know that we must use the subjunctive. We have to take the verb poder, and change it to its plural preterite form, pudieron. Next we drop the -ron ending and add -ramos. Now it would be easy if we stopped there, and that was the only use of the imperfect subjunctive. Unfortunately there is another common way this tense/mood is used. We use this tense when explaining conditional ideas, also known as conditionals. What is a conditional? Usually it's just an expression of a hypothetical situation.

Zero Conditional.

Always true. Can replace if with when

If you heat water for long enough, it will boil.

Si se calienta el agua durante el tiempo suficiente, se hervirá.

First Conditional.

Highly probable if the condition is met.

If you help me with my test, I will pass.

Si me ayudas con mi examen, lo aprobaré.

Second Conditional

Possible but unlikely. These are basically just hypothetical situations.

If I had a million dollars, I would go to Egypt.

Si tuviera un millón de dólares, iría a Egipto.

Third Conditional

These are impossible because they are hypothetical situations about the past and you cannot change the past.

If I had listened, I would have done better.

Si hubiera escuchado, lo habría hecho mejor.

If you look at the table you'll notice that the situations range from certain to impossible. If you examine the 2nd in third conditional you'll notice that

The imperfect subjunctive is used.

Si tuviera un millón de dólares, iría a Egipto.

If I had a million dollars, I would go to Egypt.

In English we use the past tense to express hypothetical situations.

If I were taller, I would play basketball.

I had a million dollars, I would stop working.

However, in Spanish we use the imperfect subjunctive to accomplish the feat.

If I were taller, I would play basketball.

Si (yo) fuera más alto, jugaría baloncesto.

The imperfect subjunctive indicates that the situation ( being taller) does not exist. We are expressing that we are certain a particular situation does not exist however, if it did we know what we would do or what would happen.

Basically the structure is If X, then Y.

Condition (X) Result (Y)

If I were taller, I would play basketball.

Si (yo) fuera más alto

jugaría baloncesto.

X being the condition to meet, known as the condition. Y being the result of that condition, known as the result. We can also reverse the Condition and the Result and the sentence would still make sense.

Result (Y) Condition (X)

I would play basketball, if I were taller.

jugaría baloncesto,

Si (yo) fuera más alto.

Notice that even though the tense for the Condition varies between the two languages, English uses the Simple Past while Spanish uses the Imperfect Subjunctive, the tense for the Result is the same, The Conditional. In English we form The Conditional with two words, would + verb in its base form. In our example, would play, the person isn't playing, but rather if a condition is met they would play. In Spanish we also use the conditional as well, and it expresses the same idea. To form the Conditional we take the Spanish verb in the infinitive and add the appropriate conditional ending. In our example we use the verb jugar + ía ( the first and third person singular conditional ending). Below we have a chart with all the conditional endings.

Yo- ía


Él, Ella,Usted-ía

Ellos, Ellas-ían


To clarify this idea further we are going to do a transformation drill.

We are going to take a second conditional and translate the idea from English to Spanish. We did mention the third conditional however we are going to leave that for a later time.

If she were shorter, she would wear heals

Ok, first we know that if translates to si. Shorter translates to más baja.

Were is the past simple, but as previously stated Spanish uses the imperfect subjunctive so this becomes fuera. Lastly would use translates to usaría.

Si fuera más baja, usaría tacones.

I know this last blog post was incredibly dense. Nevertheless I am now sure you have all the information necessary to master this topic with practice.

Pulled from The Quick Guide to the Spanish Subjunctive and rewritten for

First Conditional

Coming soon ........

Second Conditional

Coming soon........

Third Conditional

Coming soon........

Direct Object Pronouns

Coming soon........

Indirect Object Pronouns

Coming soon........

Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns In The Same Sentence

Coming soon........