imperfect subjunctive alternative form

imperfect subjunctive alternative form


I saw the following sentence in the Spanish newspaper "El País". And I was wondering why it has both forms of the imperfect subjunctive ("hubiera" and "hubiese") referring to "las formas de vida intelligente" ? Why are both forms being used ?

Este es un mensaje para cualquiera de las formas de vida intelligente que hubiera o hubiese en este lindo e infinto universo ...

updated OCT 5, 2009
posted by dale3
I guess that by putting " hubiera o hubiese" in the sentence - - - the writer is saying -- "whichever form you prefer" -- - dale3, OCT 5, 2009
that would be my guess - Izanoni1, OCT 5, 2009

4 Answers


Well, the answer is the very colloquial use of this as a fixed phrase. If we want to put something real doubtful, really funny, really...whatever, we use the two forms in the same sentence.

Does not have a grammar reason or anything, just a colloquial use. wink

si tuviera o tuviese dinero....otra cosa sería

Si hubiera o hubiese alguien inteligente en esta sala......

Si este tipo dijera o dijese alguna vez algo inteligente.......

updated OCT 6, 2009
posted by 00494d19
I don't know if in other countries the same happens, but here in Spain we do that all the time, also making fun of somebody, ridiculizing.... - 00494d19, OCT 5, 2009
ridiculing maybe? - Izanoni1, OCT 5, 2009
your Spanish is creeping in - Izanoni1, OCT 5, 2009
Thank you. Yours is the only answer that addresses authentic usage. - lingocom, OCT 5, 2009

Apparently either form is appropriate and is used at the discretion of (to suit) the person using them.

Here is an excerpt from a related article:

Debe evitarse decir “Si hubieran (o hubiesen) unos cuantos decididos a echarle pichón”. (Debe recordarse que el pretérito imperfecto de subjuntivo tiene dos formas exactamente equivalentes: hubiera o hubiese. Las dos pueden usarse libremente, a gusto del hablante).

updated OCT 5, 2009
edited by Izanoni1
posted by Izanoni1
Yeah, but why would they use both in the same sentence? Why not just pick one? - Jason_Bryant, OCT 5, 2009
Oh...you mean and be logical? I have no idea. Why do some people write things like, "If a person wants to do something then 'he or she' should...?" Poor writing technique? I don't know--your guess is as good as mine, but they don't have different - Izanoni1, OCT 5, 2009
meanings, in any event - Izanoni1, OCT 5, 2009
..I mean that hubiera and hubiese don't have different meanings. - Izanoni1, OCT 5, 2009
Still waiting for a good answer to the original question. - lingocom, OCT 5, 2009

It is because there are 2 ending options for conjugations for the "imperfect subjunctive". Refer to the reference section on this web site, or any Spanish grammar book -- you will find the conjugation rules and example tables for each option.

While all conjugations (-ar, -er, -ir) have the same endings in the imperfect subjunctive, there are two options for endings for the imperfect subjunctive. The first option is used widely in speech in Spain, Latin America, and South America. The second option is used more in written language in Spain.

The 1st option is almost always used at all times even in Spanish books that I read.

updated OCT 5, 2009
posted by Daniel
He knows that. He's asking why someone would use both at the same time. - Jason_Bryant, OCT 5, 2009

Here is an interesting forum in which some people have contended that there may exist some regional differences in usage (especially in Venezuela and Ecuador) and that one form may be preferred over another between various Spanish speaking nations. To me, this seems to reinforce what has been said regarding this (i.e. the writer is effectively stating whichever you are comfortable with "hubiera o hubiese.")


updated OCT 5, 2009
posted by Izanoni1
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