Understand/clarify how to express inference/guess on an event that happened in the past.


To say "Who built Stonehenge (and why)?" in Spanish seems to be:

  • Quien construirían Stonehenge?
  • Quien habrán construido Stonehenge?

Are these correct? Providing they are correct:

  1. What is the difference in using conditional and future perfect?
  2. Are there other ways to express the same?

Thanks in advance. M

(Updated question based on the feedback)

Suppose we were at the time when Schliemann had not found Troy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troy) yet, and wonder:

  • We do not know the Trojan war was true, but if it was, where was Troy?

How to write/say it in Spanish? Is this correct?

  • No conocemos que la guerra de Troya sea (o será?) la realidad. Pero si fuera (o es?), donde estaría (o habrá estado) Troy?

Subjuntivo or Futuro

I think Indicativo is to describe a fact/what actually happened. Back then, 'if Trojan war was true' was not verified. So I suppose Subjuntivo or Futuro is to use, but not sure of the difference. Could someone explain?

Future Perfect or Conditional or Subjuntivo Imperfecto

Not knowing if it did exist, asking "Where was Troy" is presenting a hypothetical question about the past. In such a case, which one is to use?

  • Conditional
  • Future perfect
  • Subjuntivo imperfecto

Conditional looks natural to me to associate with 'si'. I think Future Perfect can be used as it (in my understanding) is about 'possibility in the past'. Also as it is a 'supposition about the past', Subjutivo Imperfect may be OK.

Could someone explain which one is to use or what is the indication by each tense?

Thanks in advance, M

1 Answer 1


The question "Who built Stonehenge?" refers to something that is fixed in the past. If we stick to that fact, in spanish the same question would be "¿Quién construyó Stonehenge?" (singular) or "¿Quiénes construyeron Stonehenge?" (plural). Simple past.

Now if you're debating about alternative outcomes of events that would have caused Stonehenge to not being built or built by someone else, then you'd phrase the question differently in English, and also in Spanish.

"If aliens would had scorched the place where Stonehenge is now, would they had still built it?"

"Si alienígenas hubiesen quemado el lugar donde está Stonehenge hoy, igual lo hubiesen construido?"

The question "Quien¿Quiénes construirían Stonehenge?" would translate to English as "Who would build Stonehenge?"

"Quien¿Quiénes habrán construido Stonehenge?" is a conditional question in where you wonder who had managed to built it. knowing that Stonehenge is there, this question is equivalent to "¿Quiénes construyeron Stonehenge?"

Now, if you're talking about something that you don't know if it happened or not, then you definitely have to use the future perfect.

"IPhones are expensive. Who would have bought one?"

"Los IPhones son caros. ¿Quién habrá comprado uno?"

This is my interpretation as a native speaker but not as a linguist, so I would suggest you wait for a linguist to complement or discard this answer with a more formal explanation.

  • Some errors I detected in my answer: "If aliens had scorched... " (no WOULD) ... in where you wonder who had managed to BUILD it" Aug 25, 2014 at 20:37

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