I found some examples of conditional clauses whose translation may include the word "would". They are:

  • Si Marcus Iuliam amet, ea eum amet.

If Marcus should [perhaps ever some day] love Julia, she would love him.

  • Si Marcus Iuliam amaret, ea eum amaret.

If Marcus loved Julia [but he doesn't love her now], she would love him [but she doesn't love him now].

  • Si Marcus Iuliam amavisset, ea eum amavisset.

If Marcus had loved Julia, she would have loved him.

That makes me think that a sentece like "I would do that" can be formed in Latin with the present subjunctive (first example) or the imperfect subjunctive (second example).

In general, what is the equivalent to the "conditional tense" of other languages, for example, French "Je le ferais"; Italian "Lo farei"?.

Also (and the reason of the third example), in English there is another conditional clause which is a combination of the second and third conditional (second and third example). An example could be:

  • If he had not had luck, he would not be alive.

How can this be translated to Latin?

  • 1
    It's absolutely fine to say "Mārcus sī nōn fēlīx fuisset, non inter vīvōs versārētur" or whatever. I'm leaving this as a comment because I don't know the answer to the first part of your question—that is, I've seen BOTH the present subjunctive and the imperfect subjunctive in Latin used for "I would do that," and I have yet to figure out what the difference is. Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 6:17
  • Related: latin.stackexchange.com/questions/12814/…
    – Quidam
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 15:57

1 Answer 1


So what's going on here is that 19th century Latin textbooks never caught up with the 20th century. Toss all the "would/should" nonsense. That's not how we talk anymore. Here's how we would translate these things today:

Present (potential) subjunctive:

Si Marcus Iuliam amet, ea eum amet.

If Marcus were to love Julia [which is one of the options open to him], she would love him.

Imperfect (contrafactual) subjunctive:

Si Marcus Iuliam amaret, ea eum amaret.

If Marcus loved Julia [which he doesn't], she would love him.

The crucial difference here is in the protasis (that is, the "if" clause). Though the potential subjunctive here (marked by the present) can be translated if he loved or if he were to love, the contrafactual subjunctive (marked by the imperfect) cannot be translated if he were to love.

As far as I can remember, French and Italian have no equivalent for this use of the present subjunctive. However, my French and Italian are VERY rusty, so I could be completely wrong about this.

  • The French equivalent is "voudrait" in French for "would". They use the conditional here, like in your example Si Marc aimait Julie, elle l'aimerait. But French use the potential subjonctive too. It's a common structure in Spanish and French.
    – Quidam
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 15:44
  • Potential subjonctive: lawlessfrench.com/grammar/subjunctive
    – Quidam
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 15:48
  • So, to sum up, in your example, the present subjonctive won't be used in French, as it has been replaced by another tense, the conditional, because of the "if" here; But without the "if" if something is potential, the subjonctive present is used.
    – Quidam
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 15:50
  • Lawless' page: "The French subjunctive is a special verb form, called a mood, that is used in dependent clauses to indicate some sort of subjectivity, uncertainty, or unreality in the mind of the speaker. In French, feelings like doubt and desire require the subjunctive, as do expressions of necessity, possibility, and judgment."
    – Quidam
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 15:56

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