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Condicionales enfáticas

The use of the conditional to add emphasis or change the focal point of the information is a common feature of Spanish.

The following constructions are not conditional clauses in the normal sense, because the condition does not have to be met; they are called pseudocondicionales.

 

1. Copulativas condicionales enfáticas

A conditional 'if clause', usually containing one of the indefinite pronouns alguien, algo, or alguno, followed by a clause with the verb ser, is generally referred to as an oración copulativa condicional enfática.1 2

This construction can often be translated directly with the English equivalent.

"Se suelen llamar copulativas enfáticas condicionales las formadas por el verbo ser, una oración condicional encabezada por la conjunción si, y un elemento focal, como en 'Si habla con alguien es con su amigo Pablo'. El segmento que aporta la información conocida es la oración condicional".3

Si se queja de algoes de su salud — If there is one thing he complains about, it's his health

Si alguien sabe de estas cosas, es Juan — If there's anyone who knows about these things, it's Juan

Si come algo es jamón — If there's one thing he eats, it's ham

Si lo vas a ver en algún lugar, será en el bar — If there's anywhere you're likely to see him, it's in the bar

b) This type of construction is often seen with the verbs hacer, pasar, suceder, and ocurrir.

Si hace algo es comer — If there's one thing he does, it's eat

Si ocurre algo, será que se te caiga la caja — If anything's going to happen, it'll be you dropping the box

Si nos pasa algo en nuestra relación, es que no nos hacemos ni puto caso — If there is anything wrong with our relationship, it's that we don't pay each other the slightest bit of attention

 

c) Si+A+ser+porque+B 
This construction is common in colloquial Spanish. With speculation, the sentence can be translated literally, but if we are referring to the past the sentence may have to be reworded to sound natural.

Si lo hace, será porque le gusta — If he does it he must like it (we know he does it)

Si llamó, será porque quiere algo  — If he called he must want something (we know he called)

 

Si estoy aquí es porque te quiero — The reason I'm here is because I love you

Si lo hice fue porque no quería discutir (si hubiera querido discutir no lo habría hecho)  — The reason I did it was that I didn't want to argue

Si me escapé fue porque tuve mucha suerte — I only managed to escape because I was really lucky

Si no se enteró fue porque nunca encendió la televisión — The reason he didn't find out was that he never turned on the television

 

 

2. Otras Pseudocondicionales

Conditional-type sentences where the 'if clause' (la prótasis) is not actually a condition that must be met are sometimes called pseudocondicionales. With this type of construction you are effectively saying 'if A is true then B is true too'; 'while A is/may be true, B is also true'; 'as A is true, so is B'; 'if A is to be called X, then B is to be called Y, based on the premise than they are both true'.

"Se llaman pseudocondicionales los períodos encabezados por prótasis no hipotéticas que se usan como recurso retórico para enfatizar la verdad o la falsedad de uno de los dos miembros, o incluso de los dos".2

 

This type of construction has several functions:

a) Grado mayor

The 'if clause' (la prótasis) is used to establish a comparison with the second clause (la apódosis), which is relatively greater.3

-Estoy cansado -Si tú estás cansado, yo estoy muerto —  -I'm tired -You're tired... Well, I'm exhausted.

Si Andalucía es una comunidad bonita, Galicia es un paraíso — If Andalucia is a nice region, then Galicia is a paradise

Si él es peligroso, yo soy mortal — If he is dangerous, that makes me lethal

Si a ti se te da regular, yo soy un negado — If you think you're bad then I'm terrible

 

This type of construction is compatible with the comparative. Si is often close in meaning to si bien. In English a literal translation sounds clumsy; we would normally reword the sentence.

"La oración 'si no es un genio, al menos es un estudiante responsable' implica 'probablemente no es un genio', por lo que esa información no se presenta como contingente ni se supedita a alguna otra cosa la veracidad de lo que luego se afirma". 2
Si los españoles son optimistas, los jóvenes españoles lo son más — While the Spanish in general may be optimists, their youth are a lot more so
-Estoy cansado -Si tú estás cansado, yo lo estoy mucho más — -I'm tired - You may be tired, but I'm more tired
Si tú tienes hoy mala leche, yo tengo mucha más — If you're in a bad mood, then I'm in a terrible one

b) Contraste

One element in the second clause (la apódosis) is contrasted with the 'if clause' (la prótasis). While often these are opposites, sometimes the two elements are simply juxtaposed to show some sort of similarity or contrast. 

"Se establece una relación de paralelismo o contraste entre el contenido de la prótasis y de la apódasis. Esta relación puede ser simplemente de equiparación:"5

 

Si tu familia son los Simpsons, mi familia son los Flanders — If your family is the Simpsons, then my family is the Flanders

Si a Zahara de los Atunes hay que ir con ganas de playa, también hay que hacerlo con hambre — If an appetite for the beach is needed, then so is an appetite for food (juxtaposing the appetite for the beach and the food; putting them on the same level)

 

"De hecho, la estructura pseudocondicional se caracteriza a menudo por presentar dos términos antitéticos".4

 

Si Juan no sabe nada, su hermano lo sabe todo — As Juan knows nothing, so his brother knows everything

Si ayer nos reunimos para protestar, hoy lo haremos para aplaudir — While yesterday we gathered to protest, today we'll do it to applaud 

Si antes vivían peleando, ahora son buenos amigos — While before they would always quarrel, now they are good friends

 

 c) Retórica

Especially in spoken Spanish, the 'if clause' often follows a rhetorical question. This construction is generally used to justify or deny the existence of a reason, and it tends to appear with adverbials total, al final, al fin y al cabo, etc. Sometimes the si is omitted.4 

¿Para qué comprar un coche nuevo, si nunca lo usamos? — Why buy a new car if we never use it? (if≈since; there is no reason to buy a new car)

¿Por qué tenemos que ir a la boda?, (si) total, apenas los conocemos — Why do we have to go to the wedding if we hardly know them?

¿De qué nos sirve tanto dinero, si al final no somos felices? — What's the point in having so much money, if in the end we're not happy?

¿A qué vamos a la ciudad? Si, total, no tenemos dinero para gastar  — What are we going to the city for if we don't even have money to spend? (since we don't have money)

d) Absurdo

In this interpretation, similar to English, the second clause is ironic and therefore amounts to denying the first clause. Sometimes the second clause is an expression such as que venga dios y lo vea.1

Si tú eres experto, yo soy físico nuclear — If you're an expert, then I'm a nuclear physicist (you're clearly not an expert)

Si esto no es ser un coñazo, que venga dios y lo vea — If this isn't being a pain in the ass, god knows what is

Si eso no es una señal, no sé qué es —If that's not a signal, I don't know what is (it clearly is a signal)

 

Note: These emphatic conditionals are one type of cleft sentence - see discussion.

 

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