People frequently speak in fragments, especially when answering a question. The rest of the sentence is implied.
For example, "I bet you're hoping Tommy asks you to dance tonight!" The response: "If I didn't have two left feet!" The "I bet you're hoping...." is an indirect question. The response omits the "Yes, I would hope that..." before the "...if I didn't have two left feet." but it is understood to be part of the sentence. "Yes!" has no subject or verb, is certainly a fragment, but IS a sentence and would never appear with end punctuation.
Determining if something is a question is easier in speech, when you have inflection to guide you. It is much more difficult in written communication, in Spanish or English. One clue In written Spanish is the presence or absence of accents on some words. In written statements, you'll find que, donde, and other words, without accents. If the writer intends to present an indirect question, you can find accented versions of those words with a period at the end of the sentence, even when there is no question mark.
An example: "Quisiera saber dónde puedo encontrar algún programa para convertir archivos de MP3." "I would like to know where I can find a program for converting MP3 files."
If you come across a direct or indirect question, it will often be followed by a sentence fragment as you're expected to assume it's an answer and the rest of the context is in the question.
It would be nice if DL gave us enough surrounding material to figure out these truncated sentences. Hope that helped?
You both are very right. There are basically two "if... then..." construction in Spanish, a realistic one and a hypothetical one.
You use this one for realistic possibilities
construction: Si + present, (then) present/future
example: si mi madre cocina repollo, comeré en un restaurante
(If my mother cooks cabbage, I will eat in a restaurant)
You use this one for non realistic constructions
construction: si + (subjuntivo imperfecto), condicional
example: si yo fuera el presidente, sería muy famoso
(if I were the president, I'd be very famous)
Yes, there are many subtle variations depending on the circumstances.
In English, "were" is the subjective version of "was", for example: "If I were rich..." - "Si (yo) fuera rico..." Imperfect Subjunctive ("fuera")- when talking conditionally in the present or future if the condition is improbable, impossible, or hypothetical.
"If the store is open,..." - "Si la tienda está abierta,..." Simple Present ("está") if the condition is probable or it would not be surprising to be true - present or future.
Here's a great explanation about the English subjunctive. http://grammarist.com/grammar/subjunctive-mood/
If we had been talking conditionally about the past, for example: "If I had been rich..." - "Si (yo) hubiera sido rico..." Past Perfect Subjunctive ("hubiera sido") - when talking conditionally in the past
Here's a great explanation of the use of conditional and subjunctive in a conditional context in Spanish. There are more uses of conditional than I thought. http://users.ipfw.edu/jehle/courses/condic.htm
Are there other options which you know that people use in actual practice? Perhaps simpler? Thanks.
Well that depends, you can also have it with the present tense and the future, just as in English. "If it rains, we will stay at home" (si llueve, nos quedaremos en casa). Equally "if it were raining, we would stay at home" (si lloviera, nos quedaríamos en casa). "were" is the subjective imperfect in English (though "was" is replacing it these days). So actually the subjunctive in the past is pretty easy – if you know how to speak 'posh' then you know it already :P
Basically: If + present + then + future = possibility Or: If + imperfect subjective + then + condition = impossibility.
I found this complete and concise description of the various constructs of "If...then...". It explains which mood and tense to use in differing situations of possibility, hypotheticality, past/present/future timing for both the "if" clause and the "then" clause
For me, it was eye-opening and ah-ha filled. Explained the nuances which caused me to be confused just when I thought I understood it.
You're about right (about thinking it's a sentence fragment). I almost wrote it without the "only". Without the "only", it is a sentence fragment (incomplete sentence, a subordinate clause without a main clause) and has no meaning.. However, the "only" changes it to a kind of sentence.
The "only" makes it an "exclamatory sentence", aka "minor sentence." Despite beginning with a "subordinating conjunction" (if), as an "exclamatory sentence" it still conveys meaning. (It also might be considered an "elliptical sentence." )
Other examples include: "What the heck!" "Good job" "hello" "Me, not you." "(Anyone) hungry?" "Hungry, anyone?"
Also see NRGenge above.
You're right, it's not there (it should be. "pudiera" is the imperfect subjunctive. You make it by taking the past tense (preterite) of 3rd person plural ("ellos pudieron"), taking away the "on", and adding the inflections: "-a/-as/-a/-amos/-ais/-an").
Both pudiera and podría are in the tables for poder; you just need to make those tables visible. Pudiera is in the Subjunctive table (past tense), you need to select the Subjunctive mood (by default the Indicative mood is displayed). Podría is in the Indicative table (conditional tense), you need to click on "Show more tenses →".
According to Google, one of the meanings of "si": Introduce oraciones exclamativas en las que se expresa un deseo de algo que se considera poco probable o imposible. "¡si me llamara, aunque solo fuera una vez!; ¡si fuera un poquito más alto!"
The second example given here "¡si fuera un poquito más alto!" is very similar to "Si yo pudiera comer pescado." Thus, after reading this definition and its examples, I am convinced that this sentence isn't lacking anything. The "si" is sufficient, there is no need for "only", but I guess that there could be "only" if you wanted to.
Yes, but "if only I could eat fish" is more clear in meaning. It expresses a wish which absolutely cannot be fulfilled, for an unknown reason (allegery, being in the desert, etc.). There is no time reference - it can mean I want to, but cannot eat fish right now (in the desert) - or for the rest of my life (allergy).
"If I only could eat fish" is somewhat ambiguous. It may mean what is stated in the above paragraph - or it could mean a desire to eat fish and nothing else but fish. A diet exclusively of fish. ("If I could eat only fish" or "If I could eat fish only").
The much, much better choice is "If only I could eat fish".
Subjunctive is a weird mood and its concepts of "present" and "past" do not line up with what those words usually mean. It's probably better just to think that there are two distinct tenses of the subjunctive and then learn which should be used in which situation.
The good news is that there is alignment between English and Spanish here. If Spanish uses the imperfect subjunctive then English uses the past subjunctive.
We can see that here because "could" is a past subjunctive form, not present subjunctive. Or to make it even clearer, replace the verb "can" with "to be able to". Then "If I could eat fish" becomes "If I were able to eat fish". Using "were" for non-plurals is also past subjunctive, and this is easy to remember since "were" is past tense.
It's a bit like the 1st conditional and 2nd conditional in English (this example being the 2nd).
1st conditional: If I pass my exams, I'm going to University (probable, expected)
2nd conditional: If I won the lottery, I would go on a cruise (highly improbable, bordering on impossible)
In Spanish, you use the past tense of the subjunctive for the 2nd type of conditional ("pudiera"), and the simple present tense for the first type ("puedo"). Because we see "pudiera" in this sentence, we know its the 2nd, highly improbable type... so some people prefer to include the word "only" in English to stress the highly improbable, bordering on impossible, nature of the conditional. HTH
The truth is we frequently speak in incomplete sentences, whatever the language. It can make life tough for learners but it's so satisfying when you get to the point when you do it naturally in your target language. I would translate this phrase as 'if only I could eat fish', still not a complete sentence but a more natural phrase I think.
Why not translate to 'if I were able to eat fish' - this should be a better translation of the imperfect subjunctive as the imperfect implies some time in the past. 'To be able ' means the same in English as 'could' - although could on its own can have two meanings in English and it is not clear when taken out of context.