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Which of these is correct when using hubiera sido & fuera, and what is the difference between the two verbs?

1: Si el florero no hubiera sido caro, lo habría comprado para mi madre.

2: Si el florero no fuera caro, lo habría comprado para mi madre.

I was told that the second one should be "lo compraría para mi madre".

Are the two sentences correct?

Can I switch "lo habría comprado" for "lo compraría"? and what will be the difference in meaning?

And maybe an explanation between the two verb forms if they are correct?

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Mixed conditionals are used both in English language and in Spanish language.
Its usage depends on the time reference.

The forms:

  1. Si el florero no hubiera sido caro, lo habría comprado para mi madre.
  2. Si el florero no fuera caro, lo habría comprado para mi madre.

are both grammatical with different meanings.
The first one is used to speculate about an imaginary result of things that didn't happen. (An impossible situation that didn't happen in the past.)
The second one shows a present situation with a result that didn't happen.

Both implications are shown as follows:

  1. Si el florero no hubiera sido caro, lo habría comprado para mi madre. (El florero era caro, así que no lo compré. — This shows two past actions that are imaginary. —)
  2. Si el florero no fuera caro, lo habría comprado para mi madre. (El florero es caro, así que no lo compré. — This shows a present situation, the vase is still expensive, so the consequence is shown in the past. —)

If we want to speculate about a situation where the result remains in the present, we use in the second clause lo compraría (in #2), but this does not move the result in the past.

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Would have bought vs Would buy

This is what it boils down to at the end of the day.

If the vase wasn't so expensive, I would buy it.

If the vase wasn't so expensive, I would have bought it.

See how the first sentence retains the present time? The second sentence suggests that the opportunity to buy the vase has passed.

Another example

If I wasn't afraid of heights, I would jump.

If I wasn't afraid of heights, I would have jumped

In conclusion, the perfect conditional tense can't justbe replaced willy nilly with plain conditional tense,.

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in those examples, "hubiera sido caro" refers to the past and "fuera caro" refers to the present it still is expensive.

And yes on the second example you should use "lo compraría para mi madre" in order to keep the same time on the sentence.

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    I disagree with the last part. "Si el florero no fuera caro, lo habría comprado para mi madre" is perfectly grammmatical: it means the vase is still expensive. With "lo compraría" you're saying the action is in the present. That changes drastically the meaning of the original sentence, where you can't buy that vase anymore. If you say "me habría comprado una casa si no hubieran sido tan caras", you're saying houses aren't expensive anymore, or that the situation is different somehow. "Me habría comprado una casa si no fueran tan caras" is also correct and it implies houses are still expensive. – Yay Mar 26 '16 at 21:01
  • Second one is perfectly grammatical. More details should be added to this answer. – Alejandro Mar 27 '16 at 21:02
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  1. Si el florero no hubiera sido caro, lo habría comprado para mi madre.

  2. Si el florero no fuera caro, lo habría comprado para mi madre.

In example 1, you are using the "third conditional", which is used to say something that it is impossible to change at the moment: it was possible in the past, but it's not anymore now.

  • The third conditional, in Spanish, is formed with: Si + pluperfect subjunctive + simple/compose conditional. In English, the equivalent is: If + Past Perfect tense would/could/might + have + past participle.

In the example 2, you are using the "second conditional" which is used to say an action that it can be possible.

  • The second conditional, in Spanish, is formed with: Si + imperfect subjunctive + simple/compose conditional. In English, the equivalent is: If + Past Simple would / could / might + verb.
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  • What can be possible? – Yay Mar 27 '16 at 12:47
  • I'm not familiar with the terms s second and third conditional. Could you explain? – user0721090601 Mar 27 '16 at 13:02
  • @Yay the action can be possible, guifa, I've edited my question, explaining this :) – Behind The Sciences Mar 27 '16 at 19:23
  • But that's precisely what I think is wrong with this answer and the other one. In both sentences you are saying you didn't buy that vase, and you can't change that. The difference between them isn't about that, but about the fact the vase is still there and still expensive in 2, but something changed in 1. Also, 1 is a third conditional but 2 is a mixed conditional, not a 2nd conditional. A 2nd conditional would be "Si el florero no fuera caro, lo compraría para mi madre", which indeed means the action is still possible. – Yay Mar 27 '16 at 19:36
  • This fails to answer the question. – Alejandro Mar 27 '16 at 20:46

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