What is the semantic difference between the two forms below from Andean Spanish?

1. Deb entregarle - ‘He should’ve (?) given it to him.’

2. Hubiera entregado a él - ‘He would’ve (?) given it to him.'

I'm not sure if these translations are correct (I'm just trying my best here), but I am mainly interested not in the English but in the semantic difference that distinguishes them from one another.

And how should I refer to (1) and (2) when I talk about those constructions?

  • Note that in order to get "I should've given it to him", the Spanish sentence should be "debí habérselo entregado". "Entregar" needs a direct object. Regarding the other sentence, the forms "lo hubiera entregado a él" or "se lo hubiera entregado" do not have sense by themselves.
    – Charlie
    Nov 17, 2016 at 14:59
  • Ok, first lets clarify what Carlos Alejo was saying. When you say Debió entregarle you are literally saying He/She should give to him. The phrase don't have the direct object and the tense is not should have given. I don't know Andean Spanish so I don't know if the example phrases are correct, but that verb tense used in that translation is incorrect, and as far as I know that's incorrect in any place you are. Finally, if you are referring explicitly(and want an according answer) to Andean Spanish, you should explicitly say it at the question, because it can change completely the answer.
    – Nox
    Nov 18, 2016 at 8:53
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    Note that I should have doesn't mean the same thing in the US and Britain. Nov 18, 2016 at 9:15
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    Rural Andean means northern Chile, western Bolivia, and some of Peru, IMO. Nov 18, 2016 at 20:36
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    There are a lot of confusing things in the question. The potential mood is an alternate name for the future (present potential) and conditional (past potential). ío is a dialectal form for the past participle for -er and -ir verbs. After hubiera the only verb form we would expect is a participle, a preterite form can't go there. And in the second example sentence, there is a missing (and obligatory) le. Also @Teusz Note that "nos debió de comer" means "should have eaten us" (as in, we are what is to be eaten for dinner). Dec 25, 2016 at 14:14

1 Answer 1


You seem to be interested in identifying and characterizing different structures involving an obligation that was not fulfilled.

I think it advisable to add a direct object to those sentences so that their sense can be complete. As they are, something seems to be missing.

1) Debió entregarle el dinero: this has two possible translations (let's imagine the subject is female and the recipient is male):

1.a. She had to give him the money (and she gave him the money).

1.b. She should have given him the money (but she didn't). In Spanish, this can also be expressed as follows: Debería haberle entregado el dinero OR Tenía que entregarle el dinero OR Tendría que haberle entregado el dinero (pero no lo hizo).

2) Le hubiera entregado el dinero: this expresses a wish (or regret) about something that did not take place in the past:

2.a. If only she had given him the money.

If there is a tacit condition, sentence (2) may express a hypothetical result:

2.b. What would she have done if she had had the money? (¿Qué hubiera/habría hecho - ella - si hubiera tenido el dinero?) She would have given it to him. (Se lo hubiera/habría dado.)

My conclusion is then that both "Debió entregarle el dinero" and "Le hubiera entregado el dinero" can express regret about a past obligation that was not fulfilled. Each structure has in turn a meaning of its own: "Debió entregarle el dinero" can express a past obligation that was in fact fulfilled, while "Le hubiera entregado el dinero" can form part of a conditional sentence to express a hypothetical, counterfactual result.

I admit that the non-native speaker may be confused by the possibility of "Debió entregarle el dinero" expressing either a fulfilled or a non-fulfilled obligation, but unfortunately Spanish allows both possibilities. The context will define which is true in each case.

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