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El empate se mantuvo hasta el minuto 85, cuando en una jugada a balón parado Fernando marcó el gol con el que el equipo finalmente ganaría el partido.

This is quoted from some sports news I heard the other day on the radio, about a soccer match that was played the day before.

I've heard this use of the conditional many, many times, but I just realized: the team did win the match, and this was a known fact for the sports commentator. I would have expected using past simple instead, something like this:

El empate se mantuvo hasta el minuto 85, cuando en una jugada a balón parado Fernando marcó el gol con el que el equipo finalmente ganó el partido.

Why the use of the conditional tense in ganaría, then?
Is it right to use the conditional to express known past events?

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  • Maybe this will feel right to you: "What happened to the leftover chicken I put in the refrigerator last night? I need it for my casserole." "I'm sorry, I ate it, I didn't know you would need it." I think of would like the past tense of will: I will need it --> I would need it. // I can't stand this tense when used portentously in the first chapter of a biography. Oct 21 '17 at 2:29
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Conditional is used to express the future when the point of view is in the past.

In this case, the narrator set the reference point at the moment of “marcar el gol”. “Ganar el partido” is in the future relative to it, but in the narrator's past, so the conditional is used.

Here is a diagram to explain it:

N = now, the moment the story is told
R = reference point
* = gol
| = fin del partido

-----*-R-----|-----N---
  • marcó el gol con el que el equipo finalmente ganaría el partido
-----*-------|-R---N---
  • marcó el gol con el que el equipo finalmente ganó el partido
-----*-R--N--|---------
  • marcó el gol con el que el equipo finalmente ganará el partido

It's similar in English, where you can say “... scored the goal that would let them win the game” or something like that.

This is more obvious with reported speech, where the reference point is automatically set at the moment the speech occurs, and it's not an optional stylistic device. There, you are forced to use conditional if the relative clause happens after the utterance but before the narration.

Hope this helps. See also this question.

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