Does anyone want to try to translate this table into Russian?

In English there are 4 conditionals (Type 0, 1, 2, 3, 4).

I have a good idea of how these translate, but I would like to see what the great members on this stack will come up with.

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  • 1
    I've added one more variant of conditional clause in the answer, I think it is important to note. The variant is если я выпил кофе вечером, я плохо сплю, so when one is talking in general about some condition (like present simple in English) he can use any tense in the conditional part (that is infinitive, future and past), though past is not to frequent in usage.
    – d.k
    Sep 2, 2015 at 6:56

2 Answers 2


I'm not a professional linguist, so I can't provide any reference to the textbooks on this matter, but as a native speaker, my translation is below (the cells in the table correspond to the table from the question):

|  0 | если я пью кофе вечером               |  я плохо сплю        |
|    | если я выпью кофе вечером             |  я плохо сплю        |
|    | если я выпиваю кофе вечером           |  я плохо сплю        |
|    | если я выпил кофе вечером             |  я плохо сплю        |
|  1 | если я выпью кофе сегодня вечером     |  я буду плохо спать  |
|  2 | если я бы выпил кофе сегодня вечером  |  я бы плохо спал     |
|  3 | если я бы выпил кофе в прошлый вечер  |  я бы плохо спал     |

As far as I can see from this table, with imaginary situations one always uses the particle "бы" with a verb in the past.

Also imaginary situations in the future and present differ from ones in the past only by a verb in the if clause, that is only by the tense of a verb in this clause.

  • 2
    In the answer (3) I'd write "вчера вечером" instead of "в прошлый вечер"... Aug 26, 2015 at 0:47
  • @VictorBazarov, you can, but I think this would be a very arbitrary translation. "Вчера вечером" means "yesterday night", with the same approach you could say "в понедельник вечером", just because the last night is the last Monday night by a coincidence.
    – d.k
    Aug 26, 2015 at 0:58
  • 3
    "Вчера вечером" is a more typical Russian expression than "прошлым вечером" which is used not too often in situations like that. I'd say, "прошлым вечером" is more suitable for some third-person narrative about past events, it is more like 'the night before' or "накануне вечером" - relatively to some day in the past rather than 'today'. "Ямщик с трудом открыл глаза: прошлым вечером он напился."
    – Alex_ander
    Aug 26, 2015 at 6:41

This is a (very) rough correspondence:

If I drink coffee at night, I don't sleep well -> Если я пью (выпью) кофе на ночь, то сплю плохо

If I drink coffee tonight, I won't sleep well -> Если сегодня вечером я выпью кофе, то буду плохо спать.

If I drank coffee tonight, I wouldn't sleep well -> Если я буду пить кофе сегодня вечером, то не высплюсь.

If I had drunk coffee last night, I wouldn't have slept well -> Если бы я вечером пил (выпил) кофе, я бы плохо спал (не уснул).

A couple of notes. First, in (1) you must use Present (Imperfective, of course) on "the right side". Yet on "the left side" you have a choice between Present Imperfective and Future Perfective. Not much difference though.

Second, there's no real difference between (2) and (3) in Russian. Anyway you have to intone what's still possible and what you believe to be unreal (or stick to (4) maybe). I put them in order which would be preferable for me personally. But the only requirement is that both parts must be in future tense (no matter of Perfective vs Imperfective here).

On (4), only past tense is allowed but both Perfective and Imperfective are OK. Next, "бы" was a form of the verb "быть" long time ago but in modern Russian it's just a particle, so it tends to stay next to the conjunction: "если бы", "когда бы", "вот бы" etc. Moreover, there's a "unite" conjunction "кабы" mentioned in Russian analogue of "ifs and ans":

Если бы, да кабы, да во рту росли грибы (...тогда бы был не рот, а целый огород)

And last but not least, (4) may also be the pure imaginary setting similar to that "If I were the King" (or the former "ifs and ans") which makes it really close to English Second Conditional too.

Если б я был султан, я б имел трёх жён,
И тройной красотой был бы окружён.
Но с другой стороны, при таких делах
Столько бед и забот, ах, спаси аллах!

(the well-known song from the well-known movie ;)

And yet another "monarchic" example, now from the classics:

"Кабы я была царица,-
Говорит одна девица,-
То на весь крещёный мир
Приготовила б я пир".
- "Кабы я была царица,-
Говорит её сестрица,-
То на весь бы мир одна
Наткала я полотна".
- "Кабы я была царица,-
Третья молвила сестрица,-
Я б для батюшки-царя
Родила богатыря".

(from the tale by Pushkin)

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