I want to say:

I am not sure if I should eat breakfast.

I am guessing this is perfectly correct:

No estoy seguro si debería comer el desayuno.

I use this spanish checker here to check my writing sometimes, it says

"You can't use the conditional in a "si" clause. Use either the present or the imperfect subjunctive"

Is this correct? How do I properly express this?

  • 3
    You can absolutely use conditional in a si clause: "no sé si haría eso o no". But in this case, debo sounds better to be me. I doubt the grammar checker is thinking that hard though. The restriction to present indicative or past subjunctive is relevant only for X if Y phrases where X is conditioned on Y (and even then, it's far from an absolute rule, especially with habitual conditions). But in your sentence, your not knowing is independent of (not conditioned upon) whatever comes in the si clause. Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 4:06
  • What @guifa said. Also, maybe it's a regional thing but I would say No estoy seguro de si debería comer el desayuno. Actually, that's the only one that sounds correct to me. If you substitute the sentence with a noun it's clearer: it's "estoy seguro de algo, not "estoy seguro algo". The fact you're using a subordinate clause instead of a noun shouldn't change the preposition.
    – Yay
    Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 11:00
  • The Spanish use of de always confuses me. Sometimes words use them to connect concepts, sometimes they don't. My impression is deber means must, and debería means should. The conditional turns must into should, just like it turns can into could (poder -> podría). Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 14:46
  • I'm translating it from English, "I'm not sure if" Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 15:44
  • @munchschair For English speakers, verbs like poder or deber can be tricky. It's because the English modal system is very complex, and the complex Spanish verb system inextricably collapses mode and tense at times. Debo ir could be translated as the following depending on context: I should go, I ought to go, I must go. Debería ir can mean the same, perhaps with the word (s) probably or most likely. And that's before we even get into deber de (which can only be epistemic, where as sans proposition it can be deontic or epistemic). Don't fret as the difference is very small. Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 19:15

1 Answer 1


The subjunctive mood is preferred in Latin America when it comes to the conditional form (see last paragraph here). According to the Nueva Gramática de la Lengua Española (see §23.15u), this alternation is common with the verbs deber, querer and poder1: "Debieras~deberías prestar más atención" or "Quisiera~querría que la conocieras". The versions with the conditional forms are more common in Spain, and those with the subjunctive form are more common in Latin America. Of course, the use of the subjunctive instead of the conditional form is rare when the verb is part of an apodosis.

Therefore, in Latin America we can say:

No estoy seguro si debiera/debiese desayunar. (comer el desayuno sounds a bit redundant because breakfast is obviously eaten.)

And in Spain, you will hear:

No estoy seguro (de)2 si debería desayunar.

However, when you want to replicate what's been said to you, you can use the conditional, both in Latin America and in Spain:

— Deberías desayunar.
— No estoy seguro si debería desayunar.

1: This applies to simple forms. Unfortunately, the rules aren't that clear-cut for compound forms. Some examples from the same source with compound forms are "No sé cómo hubiera~habría acabado eso" or "Te hubiera~habría decepcionado". As you can see, the rules for alternation between the subjunctive and the conditional forms are less restrictive with compound forms, for which it can occur with a wide range of verbs ("acabar" or "decepcionar" in the examples) and situations. The Latin America/Spain difference also applies here.

2: The version without the preposition (de) is common in some regions, but would be considered a form of queísmo (press Ctrl + f and type "seguros" for an example from an authoritative source).

  • According to RAE, it's a regional thing: "Si bien la preferencia de hubiera por habría es mayor en el español americano que en el europeo, se admiten ambas en uno y otro". It would be useful to specify that your first example is more common in Latin America and the second is more common in Spain; and since you're being region-specific, note in Spain it's more common to introduce the if-clause with the preposition de.
    – Yay
    Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 15:42
  • @Yay Si quieres lo editas por mí que no estoy con tiempo ahora. :)
    – Schwale
    Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 15:44

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