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Using El Condicional to talk about a future in the past

El Condicional Simple can be used in Spanish to express an action that takes place in a future within the past. It is commonly used in reported speech, with "Dijo que..."

For example:

Ella dijo que me llevaría a mi casaShe said she'd take me home.

Mis padres dijeron que me comprarían un coche.My parents said that they'd buy me a car.

If we place ourselves in the past at the moment of speaking, the action expressed with El Condicional is seen as something that has not happened yet, but it is going to happen in the future (inside that past).

Thinking about it now, everything expressed in the sentence is completed in the past, but not back then at the moment of speaking.

Sometimes the indirect speech is not obvious, or not present, but it has the same effect, as long as there is a verb in the past tense. For example:

Todos llegamos a un acuerdo: no beberíamos nada de alcohol hasta diciembre.We all came to an agreement: we wouldn't drink any alcohol until December.

Carmen decidió que ella pagaría las clases privadas de guitarra de su nieta.Carmen decided that she'd pay the private guitar lessons for her granddaughter.

Bear in mind that sometimes the action expressed with the conditional may still not have happened yet, but it will happen in a future point after the moment of talking. For example:

El hombre del tiempo dijo ayer que hoy llovería.The weather forecast presenter said yesterday that it would rain today.

Here, the moment of speaking is "today" and we can understand that the action expressed in the conditional is an action either about to happen today or already happening. It is not clear, but it is understood that it will happen.

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Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

Carmen decidió que ella pagaría las clases privadas de guitarra de su nieta.Carmen decided that she'd pay the private guitar lessons for her granddaughter.
El hombre del tiempo dijo ayer que hoy llovería.The weather forecast presenter said yesterday that it would rain today.
Todos llegamos a un acuerdo: no beberíamos nada de alcohol hasta diciembre.We all came to an agreement: we wouldn't drink any alcohol until December.
Mis padres dijeron que me comprarían un coche.My parents said that they'd buy me a car.
Ella dijo que me llevaría a mi casaShe said she'd take me home.
Getting that for you now.