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Conditional tense question


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Old March 27, 2014, 11:33 AM
BrutonGaster BrutonGaster is offline
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Conditional tense question

I heard the song Tears in Heaven today and was thinking about how to translate it into Spanish. The first lyric is: "Would you know my name if I saw you in heaven?" I figured the Spanish translation would be: "¿Sabrías mi nombre si yo te viera en cielo?" I thought about it a while and realized that the same words with a period at the end instead of the question marks would mean "You would know my name..." instead of "Would you know my name..." When speaking, the distinction between the two can be made by the change of tone/pitch associated with asking a question. But in a song, you can't do this.

So my question is this: is there a way to distinguish between "Would you know my name..." and "You would know my name" other than by using punctuation or tone? Or did I just translate incorrectly? Thanks in advance.
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Old March 27, 2014, 12:06 PM
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Welcome to the forums.

I think that your translation is fine.

And no, intonation in speech and punctuation in writing is all that distinguishes the question from the statement in this case; the perception of whether it's a question or a statement would normally be supported by the context in which the sentence is uttered.

As you say, though, in a song intonation is lost in favor of melody, leaving the context of the sentence as the only source of clues regarding whether it's a statement or a question, and some contexts may not offer sufficient clues to do that. Of course, ambiguity and the potential for multiple interpretations is relatively common in poetry...

Last edited by wrholt; March 27, 2014 at 12:15 PM.
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Old March 27, 2014, 04:37 PM
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Originally Posted by BrutonGaster View Post
... The first lyric is: "Would you know my name if I saw you in heaven?" I figured the Spanish translation would be: "¿Sabrías mi nombre si yo te viera en el cielo?"
Added one detail to your translation.

Here you can find the lyrics already translated. I didn't look at much more than the first line, but it was correct. Many people post translations of songs on the internet, so it may or may not be the best one.

Welcome to the forums, by the way.
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Old March 27, 2014, 09:12 PM
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That line, interpreted in both languages, should read "Would you recognize me....?

Para tener enemigos no hace falta declarar una guerra; solo basta decir lo que se piensa.
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