CONDITIONAL (present and past): how to form and when to use it!

In today’s lesson we will deal with an Italian tricky mood: the CONDITIONAL! But don’t worry: we will find out together how to form and when to use it… so, don’t move!

Italian CONDITIONAL: morphology and use

Let’s start by saying that the conditional, in the Italian language, is divided into two tenses: present (also known as “simple”) and past (also known as “compound”).

PRESENT CONDITIONAL in Italian

At this point, a clarification is needed: Italian verbs, in conditional and future, are formed by following the same rules and they do have the same exceptions! Yes! You got that right: this means that if you know how to form the FUTURE, you can also form the CONDITIONAL… and viceversa! That’s cool, isn’t it? Anyway, let’s see how to form the present conditional, for those of you who still have doubts!

The only difference between future and conditional are their endings. The endings of the present conditional are the same for all the verbal groups! That’s great, isn’t it? 😉

Furthermore, those endings are not to be added to the root of the verb, but to the entire verb without the last vowel -E.

Let’s see one example for each group:

PARLARE (to speak)LEGGERE (to read)DORMIRE (to sleep)
io parlereiio leggereiio dormirei
tu parlerestitu leggerestitu dormiresti
lui / lei parlerebbelui / lei leggerebbelui / lei dormirebbe
noi parleremmonoi leggeremmonoi dormiremmo
voi parlerestevoi leggerestevoi dormireste
loro parlerebberoloro leggerebberoloro dormirebbero

Have you noticed the peculiarity of the verbs in -ARE? The letter -A of -ARE becomes an -E!

PAY ATTENTION:

The verbs ending in -CARE and -GARE take an H after the -C and the -G in each person of the conjugation!

For example:

PAGARE (to pay)COMUNICARE (to communicate)
io paghereiio comunicherei
tu pagherestitu comunicheresti
lui / lei pagherebbelui / lei comunicherebbe
noi pagheremmonoi comunicheremmo
voi pagherestevoi comunichereste
loro pagherebberoloro comunicherebbero

Instead, the verbs in -CIARE and -GIARE lose the -I in each person of the conjugation!

For example:

COMINCIARE (to begin)MANGIARE (to eat)
io comincereiio mangerei
tu comincerestitu mangeresti
lui / lei comincerebbelui / lei mangerebbe
noi cominceremmonoi mangeremmo
voi comincerestevoi mangereste
loro comincerebberoloro mangerebbero

Do you think it’s over? Unfortunately no!

The verbs ESSERE and AVERE, obviously, are completely irregular! Here you are their simple future:

ESSERE (to be)AVERE (to have)
io sareiio avrei
tu sarestitu avresti
lui / lei sarebbelui / lei avrebbe
noi saremmonoi avremmo
voi sarestevoi avreste
loro sarebberoloro avrebbero

Other irregularities that deserve to be mentioned are:

1) some verbs in -ARE such as DARE, FARE e STARE don’t change the -A in -E. Here you are their simple future:

DARE (to give)FARE (to do)STARE (to stay)
io dareiio fareiio starei
tu darestitu farestitu staresti
lui / lei darebbelui / lei farebbelui / lei starebbe
noi daremmonoi faremmonoi staremmo
voi darestevoi farestevoi stareste
loro darebberoloro farebberoloro starebbero

2) some verbs in -ERE such as DOVERE, SAPERE, VIVERE, POTERE, VEDERE, CADERE (N.B. among these, there’s also ANDARE!!!) behave like AVERE, that is they lose the first E as well as the second one! Here you are their simple future:

DOVERE (to must)SAPERE (to know)VIVERE (to live)
io dovreiio sapreiio vivrei
tu dovrestitu saprestitu vivresti
lui / lei dovrebbelui / lei saprebbelui / lei vivrebbe
noi dovremmonoi sapremmonoi vivremmo
voi dovrestevoi saprestevoi vivreste
loro dovrebberoloro saprebberoloro vivrebbero
POTERE (to can)VEDERE (to see)CADERE (to fall)
io potreiio vedreiio cadrei
tu potrestitu vedrestitu cadresti
lui / lei potrebbelui / lei vedrebbelui / lei cadrebbe
noi potremmonoi vedremmonoi cadremmo
voi potrestevoi vedrestevoi cadreste
loro potrebberoloro vedrebberoloro cadrebbero
ANDARE (to go)
io andrei
tu andresti
lui / lei andrebbe
noi andremmo
voi andreste
loro andrebbero

3) other verbs, instead, lose not only the ending, but also part of their root, and they are characterized by the presence of a double r “rr”… This happens with VENIRE, RIMANERE, MANTENERE, TENERE, VOLERE and BERE. Here you are their simple future:

VENIRE (to come)RIMANERE (to remain)MANTENERE (to keep)
io verreiio rimarreiio manterrei
tu verrestitu rimarrestitu manterresti
lui / lei verrebbelui / lei rimarrebbelui / lei manterrebbe
noi verremmonoi rimarremmonoi manterremmo
voi verrestevoi rimarrestevoi manterreste
loro verrebberoloro rimarrebberoloro manterrebbero
TENERE (to hold)VOLERE (to want)BERE (to drink)
io terreiio vorreiio berrei
tu terrestitu vorrestitu berresti
lui / lei terrebbelui / lei vorrebbelui / lei berrebbe
noi terremmonoi vorremmonoi berremmo
voi terrestevoi vorrestevoi berreste
Loro terrebberoloro vorrebberoloro berrebbero

When TO USE the PRESENT CONDITIONAL in Italian?

1. To express a DESIRE

For example:

Mi piacerebbe tanto visitare New York! (I would really like to visit New York!)

or

Quanto vorrei che fosse già estate! (I wish it was already summertime!)

2. To express POLITENESS

For example:

Vorrei un caffè per favore! (I’d like a coffee, please!)

or

Mi daresti il tuo numero di telefono, gentilmente? (Would you kindly give me your telephone number?)

3. To express PERSONAL OPINIONS

For example:

Lucia vuole organizzare una festa a sorpresa per suo fratello. Sarebbe una cosa carina a mio parere. (Lucia wants to throw a surprise party for her brother. It would be a nice thing in my opinion)

4. To express ADVICE

For example:

Secondo me, dovresti impegnarti di più nel tuo lavoro. (In my view, you should work harder)

5. In the main sentence of the 2nd type of Italian if clauses to express possibility, together with the imperfect subjunctive in the subordinate sentence.

For example:

Se fossi ricca, comprerei una villa a Cannes. (If I were rich, I would buy a big house in Cannes)

or

Se chiedesse scusa, lo perdonerei(If he apologized, I would forgive him)

6. To express a DOUBT

For example:

Come potrei fare per risolvere questo problema adesso? (What could I do to solve this problem now?)

or

E quest’uomo chi sarebbe(Who’s this man?)

Related to this use, the conditional is especially used in the newspaper language to REPORT RUMORS, unconfirmed news. 

For example:

Tra le vittime del disastro aereo ci sarebbero 5 italiani (Among the victims of the air disaster there reportedly are 5 Italians)

Everything’s clear? Now let’s move to…

PAST CONDITIONAL in Italian

The past conditional is formed in a simple way, that is by using the present conditional of ESSERE or AVERE (according to the one that our verb needs) + the past participle of the verb!

Review when to use ESSERE or AVERE with our lesson!

For example:

ANDARE (to go)FINIRE (to finish)
io sarei andato/aio avrei finito
tu saresti andato/atu avresti finito
lui / lei sarebbe andato/alui / lei avrebbe finito
noi saremmo andati/enoi avremmo finito
voi sareste andati/evoi avreste finito
loro sarebbero andati/eloro avrebbero finito

If you like the sweatshirt Graziana wears in the video, you can buy it in our online shop: LearnAmo Collection! Check it out! New merch is available! What are you waiting for?

When TO USE the PAST CONDITIONAL in Italian?

Basically, we use it in the same cases in which we use the present, but referring to past actions and events. The only case in which we cannot use the past conditional is to express POLITENESS! 

1. DESIRE in the past:

Quando sono stata alla festa, mi sarebbe piaciuto fare più foto, ma purtroppo avevo il cellulare scarico. (When I was at the party, I would have liked to take more pictures, but unfortunately my smartphone was out of charge)

2. PERSONAL OPINION in the past:

Peccato che quella festa sia saltata. Sarebbe stata divertente secondo me. (Too bad that party didn’t take place. It would have been funny in my opinion)

3. ADVICE in the past:

Non avresti dovuto lasciarlo andare! (You shouldn’t have let him go!)

4. In the third type of Italian if clauses, instead, the past conditional is used in the main sentence to express impossibility, together with the past perfect subjunctive in the subordinate sentence:

Se tu avessi chiamato Luca, ti avrebbe detto la verità. (If you had called Luca, he would have told you the truth)

5. DOUBT in the past:

Quando è andata via, ho pianto tanto. Ma cos’altro avrei potuto fare per fermarla? (When she went away, I cried a lot. But what else could I have done to stop her?)

6. To REPORT unconfirmed NEWS in the past:

Il criminale sarebbe stato avvistato al confine con la Svizzera. (The criminal was reportedly spotted at the border with Switzerland)

7. PAY ATTENTION! We also use the past conditional to express FUTURE IN THE PAST!!! Keep this in mind because this is something typical of the Italian language! 

For example:

Mi ha detto che avrebbe fatto tardi! (He told me he would be late!)


For further information about the FUTURE IN THE PAST, we suggest you to have a look at our lesson about the Italian INDIRECT SPEECH!

Let’s see if you’ve mastered the contents of this class. Have a go at completing the exercises!

Leave a Reply