a + infinitive to mean "if"

I am reading a book about idiomatic expressions in Spanish. I just found something the I cannot believe. It says that "a + infinitive" can mean "if". The example is as follows:

A haberlo comprado yo, yo lo hubiera devuelto.
If I had bought it, I would have returned it.

This sentence sounds natural to me, but I have still never heard of "a + infinitive" meaning "if".

Gracias de antemano a cualquiera persona que me ayude.
 
  • Drake15

    Senior Member
    Spanish (Argentina)
    Hmm, I have never heard or read "a + verb" to mean if, but I do normally hear (and say) "de + verb" with the same meaning:

    De haberlo comprado yo, lo hubiera devuelto.
    Had I bought it, I would have returned it.

    :)
     

    Ushuaia

    Senior Member
    castellano rioplatense
    Hola, alekpushkin.

    ¡Concuerdo con mi compatriota! :)

    Quizás sea un uso habitual en otras regiones; no puede decirse que sea común al castellano en general.

    Pienso, sin embargo, en expresiones como "a juzgar por", que equivale (grosso modo) a "si formamos un juicio a partir de"... pero no se me ocurren otras.

    Gracias de antemano a cualquier persona que me ayude.
    ;)
     

    Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    The Corpus del Español gives 8 examples of "a haberlo..." with that meaning, all from the 19th century.
    It gives 18 examples of "de haberlo...", mostly from the 20th century. The form with "a" seems archaic.
     

    Wandering JJ

    Senior Member
    British English
    My grammar book agrees with Ushuaia's comment, that a + infinitive can have a conditional meaning in a few cases:

    a juzgar por lo que dicen... = si se juzga por lo que dicen = to judge by what they say...
    a decir verdad, no me cae bien... = si digo la verdad, no me cae bien = to tell the truth, I don't like him/her/you.
     

    Sendro Páez

    Senior Member
    Spanish - España
    A haberlo comprado yo, yo lo hubiera devuelto.
    If I had bought it, I would have returned it.
    Desde España, tampoco recuerdo haber oído nunca esa estructura con valor de locución conjuntiva condicional (es decir, las palabrejas que ponemos para presentar una condición).

    Por cierto, desrecomiendo absolutamente el hubiera devuleto del original. Si vuelves a traducir, alekpushkin, desde tu frase inglesa al español, tienes una frase mejor compuesta:

    - If I had bought it, I would have returned it deviene Si lo hubiera comprado yo, lo habría devuelto. [Idea revolucionaria: una oración condicional ¡con un verbo en condicional! Además, como dice mi psicoanalista, es mejor quitar el segundo yo.]

    Más variantes:

    - De haberlo comprado yo, lo habría devuelto.
    - Caso de haberlo comprado yo, lo habría devuelto.
    - En caso de que lo hubiera comprado yo, lo habría devuelto.
    - En el supuesto de que lo hubiera comprado yo, lo habría devuelto.

    Estas conservan el aspecto perfecto del ejemplo inicial, en que el cumplimiento de la condición es imposible. Las fórmulas aportadas por Ushuaia, Rodal y Wandering JJ prescindían del aspecto perfecto. Pero, para expresar lo mismo más plásticamente, y perdiendo solo formalmente el aspecto perfecto:

    - Si lo compro yo, lo devuelvo.
    - De comprarlo yo, lo devuelvo.

    Obviamente, no recomiendo estas dos fórmulas a principiantes en el español, por las posibles confusiones que nuestra manía de ponerlo todo en presente trae consigo.

    Ah, se me olvidaba esta, que se la he oído a gente de campo:

    - En habiéndolo comprado yo, lo devuelvo.

    Las personas poco instruidas del medio rural, que no han perdido el tiempo viendo la tele, a menudo hablan mucho mejor en España que los catedráticos de universidad. No sé si este es el caso, no obstante.
     
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    Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    Wandering JJ's examples—"a juzgar por" and "a decir verdad":
    I was going to suggest that they might be "fossilized" forms of the no-longer-productive formula "a + [inf.] = 'if'" (seemingly replaced in modern language by "de + [inf.]").
    But both idioms, on the contrary, when viewed on the Ngram Viewer, look like 20th-century innovations!
    Meanwhile, I wonder if the "de + [inf.]" construction is more at home with a perfect infinitive, as in your example, alek.
    In other words, is "De comprarlo yo" ("If I were to buy it [in the future]") equally acceptable as "De haberlo comprado yo" ("If I had bought it")?
    All these expressions sound a bit literary (non-colloquial) to me.
     

    Amapolas

    Senior Member
    Castellano rioplatense
    ...
    In other words, is "De comprarlo yo" :tick: ("If I were to buy it [in the future]") equally acceptable as "De haberlo comprado yo" ("If I had bought it")?

    All these expressions sound a bit literary (non-colloquial) to me.
    Yes, it's equally acceptable in the future. Very well thought.

    I don't know if literary exactly, though the register is certainly more formal. 'If' constructions are more everyday.
     

    Sendro Páez

    Senior Member
    Spanish - España
    Yes, it's equally acceptable in the future
    Well, I think somebody could give Cenzontle and me a whole new batch of examples - with their contexts, of course - because I can't see how this works:

    De comprarlo yo = If I were to buy it [in the future]

    I forgot the 'please', sorry.


    All these expressions sound a bit literary (non-colloquial) to me.
    Literary? Non-colloquial? There are more registers than these two categories. So, I agreed with Amapolas when she just stated a different register as the habitat of those expressions. The kind of habitat that's threatened by things like Ngram or Google itself. Those popularity contests do nothing for the wealth of our languages. Dare to use those new ways of saying, Cenzontle! I don't want them to die!
     

    Amapolas

    Senior Member
    Castellano rioplatense
    Pensando en las posibilidades del inglés, también tenemos 'were I to buy it' y también 'had I bought it' que expresan más o menos lo mismo que 'if I were to buy it' y 'if I had bought it' pero omitiendo el if.
     
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