if i studied hard (imperfecto de subjuntivo o de indicativo)

Discussion in 'Spanish-English Grammar / Gramática Español-Inglés' started by drewbles83, Dec 3, 2013.

  1. drewbles83 New Member

    Norfolk, VA
    I'm having a hard time translating this sentence:

    My teacher said that if I studied hard I could get into the academy.
    Mi maestra me dijo que si estudiara mucho, podría entrar en la academia.

    I'm concerned with the conjugation of the verb 'estudiar'. If it isn't 'estudiara', what should it be and why?
  2. chamyto

    chamyto Senior Member

    Burgos, Spain
    Hello, your attempt is perfect. Nothing to change.

    By the way, welcome to the forum
  3. drewbles83 New Member

    Norfolk, VA
    Thanks! My native speaker friend was telling me that it should be 'estudiaba', but I couldn't make sense of why that would be a good option.
  4. donbill

    donbill Senior Member / Moderator

    South Carolina / USA
    English - American
    As chamyto points out, your attempt is right on target. But take look at the following sentences.

    a. If I study hard, I get good grades. = Si estudio mucho, saco buenas notas. (It's always that way.)
    b. If I studied hard, I got good grades. = Si estudiaba mucho, sacaba buenas notas. (It always happened.)
    c. If I studied hard, I would get good grades. = Si estudiara mucho, sacaría buenas notas. (I don't study hard!)

    Sentences a and b rule nothing out. They simply present a given situation and the outcome. Sentence c, on the other hand, depicts a situation that is contrary to reality: I don't study hard, but if I did, I'd get good grades.
    Si-clauses can be confusing for us because we use the same past tense form in sentences like b and c, and it's only the second clause that tells what the function of the verb is. It's a lot clearer in Spanish, ¿no?

    And I join chamyto in welcoming you to the forum. It's a great place to learn.
  5. gengo

    gengo Senior Member

    Well put, and I'll just add that the proof of the pudding is in the be verb, which does have a distinct conjugation for certain persons.

    If I was a good student, I got good grades. (if/then)
    If I were a good student, I would get good grades. (I am not a good student)
  6. Spug Senior Member

    I agree with your native-speaker friend. I think it's a very good option.

    This is reported speech. Consider what the speaker originally said: "If you study hard, you can get into the academy."

    Given that this was said in the past, a good way to convey it it reported speech would be "Mi amigo me dijo que si estudiaba mucho, podría entrar en la academia." Simply shift the present/future tenses of the original sentence to past/conditional (conditional here being future in the past).

    If your friend had said, "If you studied hard, you would be able to get into the academy." (But you don't study hard, so you won't be getting into the academy.), I think estudiara would be the appropriate verb form. But this sentence is very different from what your friend actually said in the past, at least as I understand it.
  7. jmx

    jmx Senior Member

    Spain / Spanish
    Mi maestra me dijo que si estudiara mucho, podría entrar en la academia. :confused:

    I find myself unable to decide if this sentence is possible or not. In any case, what I would say is "estudiaba" (imperfect indicative), not "estudiara".
  8. drewbles83 New Member

    Norfolk, VA
    That makes total sense. I think I was ignoring the reported speech aspect of it and just thinking about the si-clause part, matching conditional with past subjunctive.
  9. SevenDays Senior Member

    Yes, that's it. Certainly, a teacher can say "si estudiaras, podrías entrar en la Academia," which is an outright conditional construction functioning as a main sentence. In reported speed, however, the conditional sentence is embedded in a subordinate "que" construction that functions as the direct object of the main verb. What happens now is that the "tense" of "estudiar" ought to be in agreement with the "tense" of the main verb "decir;" if "decir" is in past form (dijo), then "estudiar" becomes past as well (estudiaba), and "podría" remains unchanged: Mi maestra me dijo que si estudiaba mucho podría entrar en la Academia. Using "estudiara" is problematic, because, while "estudiaba" means "past," the -ra form of the subjunctive ("estudiara") can be used to mean past, present or future. The temporal "past" meaning (to match "dijo"), then, is clearly established with "estudiaba," while "estudiara" leaves the temporal meaning sort of hanging in the air. (Notice that if what the teacher says is still relevant at the time of speaking, we can shift "estudiar" to the present tense: me dijo que si estudio...)
  10. drewbles83 New Member

    Norfolk, VA
    Last question: is it that 'estudiara' is 'grammatically' incorrect, or that it just creates a situation that's hard to conceptualize?
  11. SevenDays Senior Member

    To me, hard to conceptualize. (I'd hesitate to call it "incorrect." You never know; someone might very well pop in to grammatically justify it.)

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