Using si / sí for emphasis in Spanish

The words si and are often used colloquially in Spanish to add some kind of emphasis in different contexts. Sometimes they are part of a specific phrase. 

Let's see the most common uses of si and sí with this emphatic functionality.

si... / pero si... / si es que... (enfático)

Both si...and pero si...  followed by a sentence are often used when a person wants to show surprise, protest, objection or justification towards something that has been said.

For example, if someone says:

Tú eres el que ha empeorado la situación.
You are the one who made the situation worse.

The other person (the accused one) may reply this way towards that statement:

¿Qué? ¡Si yo no he abierto la boca en ningún momento!What? [But] I haven't opened my mouth at all!

or

¿Cómo? ¡Pero si yo acabo de llegar!How? [But] I've just arrived!

The message behind that si / pero si is "what are you talking about?", "I can't believe what you're saying!", "that's so unfair!

Depending on each context it will take one meaning or another. Sometimes it's a very light surprise, protest, objection or justification, and sometimes it has more weight. 

Some other examples are:

- Mami, yo quiero cocinar hoy. - Pero si eres muy pequeña, cariño.- Mummy, I want to cook today. - But you're very little, darling.

- Tranquila, yo arreglo el televisor. - Si tú no entiendes nada de electrónica...- Don't worry, I'll fix the television. - [Don't be silly,] you don't know anything about electronics...

- Te he hecho una hamburguesa de pollo. - ¡Si soy vegetariana!- I made you a chicken burger. - [But] I am a vegetarian!
 

 

Sometimes and with the same meaning and probably even more emphatic, si can be followed by "es que": si es que...

For example:

Replying to this statement:

Qué injusto es que las chicas se sientan tan inseguras por la noche cuando salen.
It's so unfair that young girls feel so unsafe at night when they go out."

Someone could emphasise this statement by reinforcing the idea of lack of safety by saying for example:

Si es que las cosas tendrían que cambiar mucho.Things should really change a lot.

With "si es que..." we make a point. It emphasises the statement, adding an idea to reinforce it.

Bear in mind that in English there is often no direct translation for si, pero si, si es que.

It's important to bear in mind that the phrase "si es que" can also have a conditional functionality (if), in which case it has a completely different meaning. It's necessary to read the context to know the difference. For example:

Le voy a cantar las cuarenta en cuanto llegue, si es que se atreve a volver.I'm going to haul him over the coals as soon as he arrives, that is if he even dares to come back. (conditional if)

 

sí..., sí que... (enfático)

With  with an accent and often followed by que... we reaffirm something; it's similar to the effect of "indeed, actually" or the equivalent to reinforcing the verb with the auxiliary "do", "did"... in English. 

For example:

- Yo creo que tú no me estás contando toda la verdad. -  estoy contándotelo todo, con pelos y señales.- I think you're not telling me the whole truth. - I am actually telling you everything, chapter and verse.

- No entiendo por qué acusan a Miguel si él no le pegó. - lo hizo; yo lo vi con mis propios ojos.- I don't understand why they are blaming Miguel if he didn't hit him. - He did actually; I saw him with my own eyes.

- No te metas en esto; tú no eres de la familia. - ¡Sí que lo soy! Soy su prima.- Don't get involved; you're not family. - I am! I'm her cousin.

- ¿A que no has hecho tu cama todavía? - Sí que la he hecho.I bet you haven't made your bed yet? - I have actually!

 

Important:

si... / pero si... / si es que... 

"si" doesn't have a written accent

 

sí..., sí que... 

"sí" has a written accent

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Examples and resources

Si es que las cosas tendrían que cambiar mucho.Things should really change a lot.
¿Qué? ¡Si yo no he abierto la boca en ningún momento!What? [But] I haven't opened my mouth at all!
- No te metas en esto; tú no eres de la familia. - ¡Sí que lo soy! Soy su prima.- Don't get involved; you're not family. - I am! I'm her cousin.
- Tienes mucha suerte con tu hijo. - Pero si no lo veo desde hace dos meses; casi no viene a visitarme.- You're very lucky with your son. - [Not really] I haven't seen him for two months; he hardly comes for a visit. 
- Te he hecho una hamburguesa de pollo. - ¡Si soy vegetariana!- I made you a chicken burger. - [But] I am a vegetarian!
- Mami, yo quiero cocinar hoy. - Pero si eres muy pequeña, cariño.- Mummy, I want to cook today. - But you're very little, darling.
¿Cómo? ¡Pero si yo acabo de llegar!How? [But] I've just arrived!
- Tranquila, yo arreglo el televisor. - Si tú no entiendes nada de electrónica...- Don't worry, I'll fix the television. - [Don't be silly,] you don't know anything about electronics...
Le voy a cantar las cuarenta en cuanto llegue, si es que se atreve a volver.I'm going to haul him over the coals as soon as he arrives, that is if he even dares to come back. (conditional if)
- Elena no sale en las fotos porque no vino al viaje. - ¡Sí que fue! Me acuerdo muy bien.- Elena is not in the photos because she didn't come on the trip. - Yes she did! I remember perfectly.
- Yo creo que tú no me estás contando toda la verdad. -  estoy contándotelo todo, con pelos y señales.- I think you're not telling me the whole truth. - I am actually telling you everything, chapter and verse.
- No entiendo por qué acusan a Miguel si él no le pegó. - lo hizo; yo lo vi con mis propios ojos.- I don't understand why they are blaming Miguel if he didn't hit him. - He did actually; I saw him with my own eyes.
- ¿A que no has hecho tu cama todavía? - Sí que la he hecho.I bet you haven't made your bed yet? - I have actually!
I'll be right with you...