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Expressing wishes or situation which did not actually happen in the past:

I would have done something ...

is translated as condicional compuesto in the book I'm using:

Habría hecho algo ...

Similarly, 3. conditional has the following structure:

si + pluscuamperfecto de subjuntivo + condicional compuesto

e.g.

Si hubiera hecho algo, habría pasado otra cosa.

However, based on my observations in Guatemala and various Latin American countries, it seems these two sentences are very often, if not always, expressed as:

Hubiera hecho algo ...

and

Si hubiera hecho algo, hubiera pasado otra cosa.

Sometimes, to avoid repetition, one part of the conditional uses the -ese form:

Si hubiera hecho algo, hubiese pasado otra cosa.

As an example from right now, a quotation from 'El señor de los cielos':

Para mi no hubiera sido suficiente haber matado a ese desgraciado.

I think it would also be correct to say:

Para mi no habría sido ...

as I think this is what my book preaches.

Is this something specific to latin america, is it some high order grammar I just haven't learned yet, or maybe just one of those things that are not grammatically correct but the way people generally speak?

Also, this seems to happen just for the past and 3. conditional; 2. conditional (the part without the 'si') and current hypothetical situations always use condicional simple and can't use subjuntivo (imperfecto or whatever):

Yo haría esto ...

Si fuera rico, viajaría por el mundo.

not

Yo hiciera esto ...

Si fuera rico, viajara por el mundo.

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I'm having trouble finding authoritative references about this, but in any case, the living language goes beyond that.

First, the "proper" structure for the phrases you're referring to is as you were taught: if [pluperfect subjunctive] then [compound conditional].

Si hubiera hecho algo, habría pasado otra cosa.

But as you also have heard, often this structure is replaced by one with two subjunctive verbs. This is not exclusive of Guatemala or of Central America; I hear it and use it all the time in Argentina, and according to at least one anecdotal source, it was already common in Spain ten years ago. The fact that the subjunctive ending in -se alternates with -ra in some cases may indeed reflect an effort to avoid cacophony, or it may be nothing of the sort.

In any case you can use subjunctive/conditional or subjunctive/subjunctive and you will be understood by native speakers without a problem.

As you have already noticed, this is only for the compound tenses. The simple tenses work as expected.

In recent times (as I hear) there's been another development: the use of the compound conditional for both parts of the phrase:

Si habría hecho algo, habría pasado otra cosa.

At least in Argentina this is considered horribly ill-sounding to some of us, but it seems we're losing that battle, since it's no longer only younger speakers coming up with this. For a language student I would say this form is a definite no, but of course you need to know about it.

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  • Great answer. Question: in place of "Si fuera rico, viajaría por el mundo," can one also say, "Si fuera rico, tal vez viaje por el mundo"? I feel unsure. – aparente001 Apr 30 '17 at 19:38
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    No, you can't. It only works with the compound tenses: Si hubiese/hubiera sido rico, hubiese/hubiera viajado por el mundo. – pablodf76 Apr 30 '17 at 20:10
  • The reason you can use an -ra subjunctive form in place of the conditional is that it’s an auxiliary from the set querer, haber, deber, poder y valer — in this case, it’s haber. See this answer for details, including links to more material about this phenomenon. – tchrist Apr 30 '17 at 20:45
  • You had trouble finding an authoritative source. I just found the variants mentioned in the Spanish Academies' handbook grammar, but without a comment on how they're differently used. "Finalmente, el período irreal es el que corresponde a la pauta Si {HUBIERA ~ HUBIESE} TENIDO, {HUBIERA ~ HUBIESE ~ HABRÍA} DADO" (Nueva gramática española, versión MANUAL, section 47.4.1.b, page 911). – Renato Montes Oct 16 '18 at 16:37
  • Antiguamente esta alternancia se daba incluso en los tiempos simples, aunque hoy haya quedado restringida a los compuestos. Pero tiene siglos y no es un fenómeno nuevo, como a veces se dice. Más información en fundeu.es/consulta/hubiera-por-habria-23847 . – Javier Bezos Dec 24 '18 at 12:01
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Soy hispanohablante, a mi parecer la frase Si hubiera hecho algo, habría pasado otra cosa y la frase Si hubiera hecho algo, hubiera/se pasado otra cosa me dan exactamente el mismo significado, simplemente haciendo notar que la construcción con -se tiene una connotación mas formal o arcaica.

Por otro lado la frase Si habría hecho, habría pasado otra cosa me parece completamante incorrecto, la simple construcción Si habría no me es familiar en lo absoluto.

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  • +1 buena respuesta. Yo soy hispanohablante también (México y España) y tengo las mismas persepectivas. Igualmente las terminaciones en -se me suenan mas formales. – Senmurv Mar 4 at 19:58
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According to the RAE, in point 1.1.2.b of the link bellow, it is allowed the use of "if subjunctive+subjunctive", and "if subjunctive+contitional", but (at least for me) the use of two subjuctives in the same phrase sounds very strange.

Si la condición se refiere al pasado, la prótasis va en pretérito pluscuamperfecto o antepretérito de subjuntivo y en la apódosis se emplea este mismo tiempo, preferentemente la forma en -ra, aunque también se admite la forma en -se: Si hubiera/hubiese tenido dinero, me hubiera/hubiese comprado un coche; el condicional compuesto o antepospretérito: Si hubieras/hubieses estudiado, habrías aprobado; o el condicional simple o pospretérito: Si hubiera/hubiese terminado los estudios, hoy tendría un trabajo mejor

http://lema.rae.es/dpd/srv/search?id=uqFr1XT7vD6KF3oDZL

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    While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes. Then you shouls explain how that applies to the question. – Diego Dec 24 '18 at 15:35
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The answer from Hipanohablante is not correct. Hubiera/habría is correct. Hubiera/hubiera is incorrect even though many native Spanish speakers use it like that. I have seen this error even in formal translations and in newspapers' editorials. Moreover, the "se" ending would replace the first "hubiera" of the first clause, not the second.

Correct use examples: "Si yo hubiese sabido eso, no habría hablado." or "Si yo hubiera sabido eso, no habría hablado."

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    Do you have a source to back up your answer? – mdewey Jul 8 '18 at 15:57
  • This is not correct, even the RAE acknowledges that there are three variations in the apódosis. Your examples are correct, but there is much more variation depending on register, region and indeed the era in which the language appears. Here is a tweet from the RAE acknowledging all three variations_ twitter.com/raeinforma/status/1164513946470141952?lang=en – Senmurv Mar 4 at 20:04

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