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I am struggling to understand the following exercise and its solution:

Por favor _____ (recoger/usted) mis cartas si ______ (quedarse/usted) este verano en la ciudad.

Solution: recoja, se queda

I understand why we use the imperativo in the first bracket. But the second bracket: Let's assume that it is very unsure, if they will be in the city this summer. Under this assumption, would it also be correct to use the condicional (si se quedarían este verano en la ciudad)? Thanks in advance

2 Answers 2

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The condicional tense can never be used in the "si" (if) clause of a sentence. It can only be used in the "then" clause. For example:

  • Si se queda este verano en la ciudad, podrá ayudarme con mis cartas.

  • Si se quedara este verano en la ciudad, podría ayudarme con mis cartas.

In the second sentence, the uncertainty is increased by using the pretérito imperfecto de subjuntivo in the "si" clause, and using the condicional in the "then" clause.

If the sentence is imperative, it is a little more complicated. One could try to use the pretérito imperfecto de subjuntivo in the "if" clause

  • Por favor recoja mis cartas si *se quedara este verano en la ciudad.

but this does not sound well, at least not to someone from Spain. We expect pretérito imperfecto de subjuntivo in the "if" clause to be combined with a conditional tense in the "then" clause. There are two common ways of fixing this:

  1. Replace the imperative by a question and use the pretérito imperfecto de subjuntivo. This also makes the sentence more polite:

    • Si se quedara este verano en la ciudad, ¿podría recoger mis cartas?
  2. Just use the present tense as in your example. This can be done even if the "if" clause is very uncertain:

    • Probablemente habrá planeado algún viaje, pero por favor recoja mis cartas si se queda este verano en la ciudad.
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  • I also considered using the pretérito imperfecto de sujuntivo, but I see that the first part of the sentence with the imperativo makes everything more complicated. Thanks a lot for your response! Jan 12, 2020 at 16:13
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I support the answer written by @wimi but I'd like to explain this is in a slightly different way.

I think it's helpful for a Spanish learner to have some paradigm sentences in their hip pocket:

  • Si Ud. necesita ayuda, llame al (800) 255-xxxx. [This sounds quite impersonal.]

  • Si Ud. necesita ayuda, me llama, por favor. [In personal conversations, the imperative can sound rather harsh; this alternative form comes across more gentle and polite.]

When a clause is introduced with "si [if]," the subjunctive isn't needed, because "si" already indicates uncertainty. However, if you do want to use the subjunctive, then the paradigm is *If (past-subjunctive), then (conditional):

  • Si Ud. necesitara ayuda, me llamaría en seguida, ¿sí?

Note that all three sentences also work with the two clauses in reverse order, for example:

  • Me llamaría Ud. en seguida si necesitara ayuda, ¿sí?

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