Conditional Perfect

Spanish conditional perfect
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Condicional perfecto

To talk about something that would, could, or should have happened—but didn’t—you need the conditional perfect, also known as the past conditional.

The conditional perfect is commonly used in si clauses: the conditional perfect explains what would or would not have happened, an action that was dependent upon something else happening or not happening (which is indicated by the pluperfect subjunctive).

Por ejemplo…

Si hubiera sabido la hora de tu vuelo, te habría encontrado al aeropuerto.   If I had known your flight time, I would have found you at the airport.
¿Habrías comprado el libro si te hubiera dicho?   Would you have bought the book if I had told you?

As you can see, both of these theoretical actions are in the past, and neither one occurred. I didn’t know your flight time, so didn’t find you at the airport, and since I didn’t tell you, you didn’t buy the book.

The conditional perfect can also be used without a dependent action, such as to express regret or to criticize.

Por ejemplo…

Habría comprado el café pero no tenía tiempo.   I would have bought coffee but I didn’t have time.
¿Qué habrías hecho, en mi lugar?   What would you have done, in my position / shoes?

In all of the above, the conditional perfect is used the same way in French and English.

 But there’s one construction in which the condicional perfecto is used only in Spanish: to report a probability or guess.

Por ejemplo…

Lucas habría comido antes de salir.   Lucas had probably already eaten.
Habrían sido las dos cuando llegamos.   It must have been 2 o’clock when we arrived.

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Spanish past conditional