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What is the difference in using those tempos in reported speech apart from representing the future in the past?

  1. Dijo que compraba el perro
  2. Dijo que compraría el perro
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I guess you wanted to write perro instead of pero :) – Gorpik Feb 5 '14 at 10:01
up vote 2 down vote accepted

In spanish the first tends to be used when the speaker you are reffering is decided to do it, while the second one is conditioned and he/she won't do it due to something.

Maybe with the verb comprar in this example we cannot apply the general rule from Presente to Pretérito Imperfecto del indicativo except if we specify when because the verb itself only takes place for a short time.

But for a recurrent action we can say:

John te dice:

  • Canto/Compro muy bien (I sing so well)

Un día despues le dices a Maria:

  • (John) Dijo que cantaba/compraba muy bien (He said that He was good at singing/buying)

The second option can match with the conditionals:

John te dice:

  • Compraría el coche, pero no tengo dinero or Compraría el coche si tuviera dinero (I would buy the car but.../if I...)

Un día despues le dices a Maria:

  • (John) Dijo que compraría el coche , pero no tenía dinero or (John) Dijo que compraría el coche si tuviera dinero (He said he would buy the car but.../if he...)

I was trying to make a better answer with more examples but the differences between English and Spanish about these report speech (estilos indirectos) and uses of present/past are a bit different.

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I used just a random verb. I've taken a note in a book that in addition to complex conditional sentence completed with "si tuviera" it was used as is from my example without it – Chesnokov Yuriy Feb 5 '14 at 13:57

First things first: By "pero" you mean "perro" , am i right?. :-)

1) Means he was doing that while talking. Sound to me like: Dijo que estaba comprando... (He/she said he was buying the dog). At the same moment of talking.

2) Means that he/she would buy the dog in the future from the moment of the conversation, but... we still don't know if he really did it. It means like a "promise".

Anyway, the first sentence is a little weird.

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both sentences are from the reported speech in correct usage – Chesnokov Yuriy Feb 5 '14 at 13:58
I agree, the first sentence is odd because it translates to "He said he was buying the dog"... indicating that something else occurred during the action. "He said he was buying the dog when....something happened." Él dijo que compró el perro is very definitive and the timeline is terminated.. the has been bought. – dockeryZ Feb 5 '14 at 18:00

The difference is quite subtle. In the first case, you are pretty confident that the person will do as she said, while in the second case you are not so confident. The conditional always expresses a possibility and not a certainty.

  1. María dijo que compraba el perro --> María said that she was buying the dog and you have no reason to believe that she did not do as she said.
  2. María dijo que compraría el perro --> María said that she was buying the dog but, for whatever reason, you thing that she might not have done so.
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I see the difference is related to the future tenses in English. will: possibility; going to: planned action; is taking: definite process – Chesnokov Yuriy Feb 5 '14 at 13:51
I will buy the dog – Chesnokov Yuriy Feb 5 '14 at 13:51
I'm going to buy the dog – Chesnokov Yuriy Feb 5 '14 at 13:51
I'm buying the dog – Chesnokov Yuriy Feb 5 '14 at 13:53
I will be buying the dog – Chesnokov Yuriy Feb 5 '14 at 13:53

As you say, one (compraría) is representing the future. The other (compraba) could be either reporting an action in the imperfect past (concurrent with when "dijo" happens) or the present. Reported speech has the following "translations" if you will.

  • presente → pret. imperfecto
    • «Estudio español»
    • Me dijo que estudiaba español.
  • pret. perfecto → pluscuamperfecto / antepretérito
    • «Estudié español»
    • Me dijo que había estudiado / estudiara / hubo estudiado español.
  • pret. imperfecto → pret. imperfecto / pluscuamperfecto prog. (latter prevents simultaneous interpretation)
    • «Estudiaba español»
    • Me dijo que estudiaba / había estado estudiando español.
  • pluscuamperfecto → pluscuamperfecto
    • «Había estudiado español»
    • Me dijo que había estudiado español.
  • futuro → condicional
    • «Estudiaré español»
    • Me dijo que estudiaría español.
  • condicional → condicional
    • «Estudiaría español»
    • Me dijo que estudiaría español.

All of these are based on two rules if you want to figure out other ones. Present shifts to imperfect, and imperfect stays in imperfect. How do you get pretérito perfecto to pluscuamperfecto? estudié and he estudiado are equivalents. he is presente, so it shifts to había resulting in había estudiado from either estudié or he estudiado. Futuro can be either estudiaré or voy a estudiar, the latter being presente is recast as iba a estudiar which is equivalent to the condicional. Condicional recasts into condicional because it's really iba a estudiar which, being imperfect, stays iba a estudiar.

Probably more detail than you needed, but should help to understand the why of the answer.

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