When reading about using the auxiliary verb haber in the imperfect subjunctive, it always seems to be used in a conditional type sentence. For example all examples I've come across when reading about this topic in Spanish grammar "resources" always include the imperfect subjunctive used with the conditional indicative to form a construction like so:

si <hubiera ahorrado> mas dinero <habría comprado> eso nuevo carro.
If I had saved more money I would have bought that new car.
<habría comprado> eso nuevo carro si <hubiera ahorrado> mas dinero.
I would have bought that new car if I had saved more money.

But outside of grammar books and resources, I hear haber "imperfect subjunctive + Past Participle" used by itself, not in a conditional form. For example, in a sentence like below:

Me hubiera dado vergüenza de copiar de alguien en clase.
I would have been ashamed to copy from someone in class.

My Question

Can I use haber in its "imperfect subjunctive + past participle" form in a sentence without it being conditional?

2 Answers 2


The tense you're using in your examples is not the imperfect, but the pluperfect--the imperfect subjunctive for comprar and ahorrar in the first person singular are comprara or comprase and ahorrara or ahorrase respectively. The question holds anyway.

One of the most common uses of the subjunctive mood is in conditional sentences, but it's not the only one. You can use the subjunctive in sentences expressing doubt, for example. This is independent from the tense. You'll be learning these uses in time. There are a lot of examples using conditional sentences in the textbooks because conditionals are used very often and they are not difficult to learn as a pattern.

An example of non-conditional pluperfect subjunctive:

No creí que hubiera hecho eso.
"I didn't believe that he had done that."

This other sentence is another matter, though:

Me hubiera dado vergüenza de copiar de alguien en clase.
"I would have been ashamed to copy someone in class."

Here the "proper" sentence would be

Me habría dado vergüenza de copiar de alguien en clase.

using the conditional mood. But in Spanish, historically and still to this day, the subjunctive and the conditional have often been confused, each one taking over functions from the other or being used one instead of the other. So it's very common to hear me hubiera dado vergüenza instead of me habría dado vergüenza, and it's been accepted by the language authorities and nobody will find it wrong. (Outside formal speech it's not rare to find the opposite, i.e. the conditional used instead of the subjunctive; but this is definitely wrong and strongly discouraged.)

Note also that the sentence is in a way a conditional statement:

Me habría/hubiera dado vergüenza de copiar de alguien en clase.

actually means you would have been ashamed if you had copied from someone. The conditional or subjunctive mood conveys this hypothetical feeling. You could express it like this:

Me habría/hubiera dado vergüenza si hubiese copiado de alguien en clase.

(Hubiera and hubiese are exactly the same; they just happened to come out that way but you could use the same one in both parts of the sentence, or invert what I did.)

  • thanks for the answer, but to clarify I believe I was clear when I wrote that I am referring to the verb HABER in the imperfect subjunctive, the verbs ahorrar and comprar I wrote are the past participle. My question says; "Can I use haber in it's "imperfect subjunctive + past participle" in a sentence without it being conditional? "
    – sf_admin
    Dec 20, 2018 at 3:25
  • 1
    I get that. But hubiera ahorrado is actually a tense called pluperfect (in the subjunctive mood). It's not imperfect haber + participle.
    – pablodf76
    Dec 20, 2018 at 11:02

Your ear is picking up things that aren't necessarily in your textbook. Good listening!

Let's look at the example you provided:

Me hubiera dado vergüenza de copiar de alguien en clase.

I'm not sure exactly what you heard. Here are some possibilities:

(a) Me hubiera dado vergüenza de haber copiado en un examen.

or perhaps

(b) Me hubiera dado vergüenza copiar en un examen.

I suspect that the difference between theory and practice that you are experiencing is that in informal natural speech, part of the sentence might not be explicit. For example: A fulano lo rasparon por copiar en el examen. Uy, ¡a mí me hubiera dado tanta pena! Here, there is an implicit clause that is understood from the context. The complete meaning of the sentence might be, Jesus, I would have been so embarrassed [if I had been caught copying]. But in both languages, "Jesus, I would have been so embarrassed" is enough. The rest can be assumed or inferred.

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