4

How are these sentences translated this in Italian? I am having problem using the congiuntivo.

If I had asked it later, she wouldn't have accepted it.

If I had her number I would call her.

If I had had her number I would have called her.

  • I took the liberty to improve the formatting and presentation. Feel free to revert if you think it changes the meaning of your question (also the Italian modo congiuntivo is called subjunctive mood in English) – Denis Nardin Apr 9 '17 at 11:46
  • Also, are you sure that your first sentence is correct (in English)? I was taught that you are not supposed to use would in the if clause. I'm not a native speaker, but If I had asked it her later, she wouldn't have accepted sounds way more natural to me. – Denis Nardin Apr 9 '17 at 11:53
  • Thank you Denis, I haven't received the modification notification, are you a native English speaker? Shall you tell me what to say instead of the first sentence to avoid using would in an if clause? – FabioSpaghetti Apr 9 '17 at 12:05
  • I am not a native English speaker, although I have been living for some time in the US. According to this website the correct form is If I had asked it later, she wouldn't have accepted. – Denis Nardin Apr 9 '17 at 12:13
  • I think you are right Denis – FabioSpaghetti Apr 9 '17 at 12:37
11

I would translate the example sentences as follows:

Se l'avessi chiesto dopo, non avrebbe accettato

Se avessi il suo numero, la chiamerei

Se avessi avuto il suo numero, l'avrei chiamata

This kind of sentences are called periodi ipotetici (hypotetical sentences) in Italian. An exposition of the rules about them can be found here. Let me briefly summarize them for you in your examples.

If I had asked it later, she wouldn't have accepted

In English, this is what's called a type 3 conditional sentence, because it describes an unreal past condition and its probable result in the past. In Italian the corresponding version is a periodo ipotetico dell'irrealtà (unreal hypotetical sentece), in the past form. It requires the if clause (protasi in Italian) at the congiuntivo trapassato and the main clause (apodosi in Italian) at the condizionale passato. So

Se l'avessi chiesto dopo, non avrebbe accettato

If I had her number, I would call her

In English this is a type 2 conditional sentence, because it describes an hypothetical condition, and its probable result. The corresponding Italian version is the periodo ipotetico della possibilità. It requires the if clause at the congiuntivo imperfetto and the main clause at the condizionale presente or imperativo. So

Se avessi il suo numero, la chiamerei

If I had had her number, I would have called her

This is again a type 3 conditional sentence. As such, it is translated with a periodo ipotetico dell'irrealtà, set in the past.

Se avessi avuto il suo numero, l'avrei chiamata

To summarize

 Type of periodo ipotetico | If clause (protasi)     | Main clause (apodosi)
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
   Realtà                  | Indicativo              | Indicativo/Imperativo
   (the hypothesis is      |                         |
    certain or very        |                         |
    likely)                |                         |
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
   Possibilità             | Congiuntivo imperfetto  | Condizionale presente/
   (the hypothesis is      |                         | Imperativo
    possible but not       |                         |
    certain)               |                         | 
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Irrealtà, I            | Congiuntivo imperfetto  | Condizionale presente/
    (the hypothesis is     |                         | Imperativo
     impossible and set    |                         |
     in the present)       |                         |
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Irrealtà, II           | Congiuntivo trapassato  | Condizionale passato
    (the hypothesis is     |                         | 
     impossible and set    |                         |
     in the past)          |                         |
------------------------------------------------------------------------------

By the way, I never really understood the difference between Possibilità and Irrealtà I. Thankfully they have the same tenses, so I can happily ignore their distinction. Note that in English they are both conflated into a type 2 conditional clause.

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