If you were to say:

If each person learns one of the languages, then the languages will be protected

would the 'aprender' be conjugated in the subjunctive?

Si cada persona aprenda uno de las lenguas, entonces se protegerán las lenguas

  • 1
    No, you don't need the subjunctive in simple "if p then q" expressions. You can use the indicative ("Si cada uno aprende una de estas lenguas, entonces se protegerán mejor"). However, if you want to be fancy, you can use the past subjunctive (not sure if that's the right technical term), and the conditional: If everyone learned one of these languages, they would be better protected. "Si cada quien aprendiera una de estas lenguas, se protegerían mejor." Commented Apr 29, 2017 at 14:53

1 Answer 1


In this type of conditional structure you can use several patterns (and you can't mix them). The patterns are not that different from those of English, except of course in English the present subjunctive is not distinct from the past indicative.

  1. if [present indicative] then [future indicative]
  2. if [imperfect subjunctive] then [simple conditional]
  3. if [pluperfect subjunctive] then [compound conditional]

So, using you example as the model (and translating a bit more naturally):

  1. Si cada persona aprende una de las lenguas, las mismas estarán a salvo. ("If each person learns... they will be safe.")
  2. Si cada persona aprendiese una de las lenguas, las mismas estarían a salvo. ("If each person learned... they would be safe.")
  3. Si cada persona hubiese aprendido una de las lenguas, las mismas habrían estado a salvo. ("If each person had learned... they would have been safe.")

The first example (using the indicative) is a general conditional statement. It may refer either to a condition in the actual present or be a timeless statement. It implies that the condition might be fulfilled at any time. If you do X, then Y will happen.

The second example (using the imperfect subjunctive) is a hypothetical statement. There's not that big a difference with the first example but there's a sense that things are not that easy; the condition might very well not be fulfilled. If you did X (but maybe you don't, who knows?) then Y would happen.

The third example is rather different (and not what you asked for, but I'm including it for completeness' sake). It's a counterfactual hypothetical statement, that is, a hypothesis about an outcome that didn't take place. If you had done X (but obviously you didn't...) then Y would have happened.

There's another possible pattern that uses the future subjunctive, but the future subjunctive has fallen into disuse (you'll only find it in legal documents, mostly).

  • It's nornally understood: language = idioma.
    – Schwale
    Commented Apr 30, 2017 at 2:46

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