The Secret to the Three Conditionals

Many students worry about the “Three Conditionals,” but in fact these sentences are formed in English exactly the same as they are in Catalan and Spanish.  The problem is that most students don’t realize this and spend their time memorizing “formulas” like:

1st Conditional A = Present / Present
1st Conditional B = Present / Simple Future
2nd Conditional = Simple Past / Conditional
3rd Conditional = Past Perfect / Conditional Perfect

This is unnecessarily complicated!  English verb have five basic forms.  For example:
The Infinitive        …        to go
Verb                      …        go
First Form             …        went
Second Form       …        gone
Third Form           …        going

One of the differences between English and Catalan and Spanish is that the same form of the English verb is used to express different tenses, while in Catalan and Spanish each tense has a distinct form.  The First Form, for example, can have different meanings depending upon the sentence.
I went          …        Vaig anar / Fui
(It could also be He anat / He ido or Anava / Iba)

If I went      …        Si anés / Si fuera / Si fuese

Another problema is that some English verbs can be translated into Catalan or Spanish as two different verbs.  For example, the English verb “have” can be translated into English as tenir / tener or as haver / haber:
I have a car            …        Tinc cotxe / Tengo coche

I have eaten          …        He menjat / He comido

The first form of “have” is even more complicated:

I had             …        Vaig tenir / Tenia / He tingut / Tuve / Tenía / He tenido


If I had
Si tingués
Si hagués
Si tuviera / Si tuviese
Si hubiera / Si hubiese

It all depends on the sentence;

If I have money, I spend it
Si tinc diners, els gasto
Si tengo dinero, lo gasto

If I have money, I will spend it
Si tinc diners, els gastaré
Si tengo dinero, lo gastaré

If I had money, I would spend it
Si tingués diners, els gastaria
Si tuviera dinero, lo gastaría
Si tuviese dinero, lo gastaría

If I had had money, I would have spent it
Si hagués tingut diners, els hauria gastat
Si hubiera tenido dinero, lo habría gastado
Si hubiese tenido dinero, lo habría gastado

have = tinc / tengo
spend = gasto
will spend = gastaré
had = tingués / tuviera / tuviese
would spend = gastaria / gastaría
had had = hagués tingut
hubiera tenido / hubiese tenido
would have spent = hauria gastat / habría gastado

And that is the secret of the Three Conditionals.

Written by Mike Dean Alger for Aston School

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