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.

Vocabulario básico 


abarcar- to encompass, to span, to include
bostezar- to yawn
delatar- to denounce, to inform on
desenterrar (ie)- to exhume, to disinter
desistir- to give up, to desist
disparar- to shoot
matar- to kill


el escaño- seat (elected office)
el/la mozo/-a- boy/girl; waiter/waitress; servant
la pena de muerte- death penalty, capital punishment
el pleito- lawsuit


darse por vencido- to give up
ir a parar- to end up (in a place)
matar a tiros- to shoot to death

Last revised on June 25, 2021.