Easy Learning Italian

The conditional - Easy Learning Grammar Italian

What is the conditional?
The conditional is used to talk about things that would happen or would be true under certain conditions, for example, I would help you if I could.
It is also used in requests and offers, for example, Could you lend me some money?;
could give you a lift.

1  Using the conditional

  • In English, when you’re talking about what would happen in certain circumstances, or saying what you could or would like to do, you use would,
    or could with the infinitive (the base form of the verb).
I would pay the money back as soon as possible.
If you asked him he’d probably say yes.
You could stay here for a while.
  • In Italian the conditional is used in this kind of sentence. Like the present and the future tenses, you make it by adding endings to the verb stem, which is
    what is left of the verb when you take away the –are, –ere or –ire ending of the infinitive.
  • You use the conditional of any Italian verb to say what would happen or would be true.
Sarebbe difficile.It would be difficult.
Farebbe finta di capire.He’d pretend to understand.
Mia madre non me lo My mother wouldn’t let me.
  • You use the conditional of the verbs potere (meaning to be able) and dovere (meaning to have to) to say what could or should happen or could or should
    be true.
Potremmo andare in SpagnaWe could go to Spain next year.
il prossimo anno.
Dovresti studiare di più.You should study more.

2  How to make the conditional

  • To make the conditional of regular –are and –ere verbs take the stem and add the following endings: –erei, –eresti, –erebbe, –eremmo, –ereste, –erebbero.
  • The following table shows the conditional of parlare (meaning to speak) and credere (meaning to believe).
Conditional of
MeaningConditional of
(io)parlereiI’d speakcredereiI’d believe
(tu)parlerestiyou’d speakcrederestiyou’d believe
parlerebbehe/she’d speak
you’d speak
crederebbehe/she’d believe
you’d believe
(noi)parleremmowe’d speakcrederemmowe’d believe
(voi)parleresteyou’d speakcrederesteyou’d believe
(loro)parlerebberothey’d speakcrederebberothey’d believe
Con chi parleresti?Who would you speak to?
Non ti crederebbe.He wouldn’t believe you.
  • Note that the same form of the verb is used for the pronouns lui, lei and Lei.
  • To make the conditional of regular –ire verbs take the stem and add the following endings: –irei, –iresti, –irebbe, –iremmo, –ireste, –irebbero.
  • The following table shows the conditional of finire (meaning to finish).
(io)finireiI’d finish
(tu)finirestiyou’d finish

finirebbehe/she’d finish
you’d finish
(noi)finiremmowe’d finish
(voi)finiresteyou’d finish
(loro)finirebberothey’d finish
Non finiremmo in tempo.We wouldn’t finish in time.
  • Note that the same form of the verb is used for the pronouns lui, lei and Lei.

3  The conditionals of volere, potere and dovere

  • You use the conditional of the verb volere (meaning to want) to say what you would like.
Vorrei un’insalata.I’d like a salad.
  • You use the conditional of volere with an infinitive to say what you would like to do.
Vorremmo venire con voi. We’d like to come with you.
Vorrebbero rimanere qui.They’d like to stay here.
TipIn Italian there are two ways of saying I’d like to: vorrei and mi piacerebbe.
Vorrei vedere quel film. ORI’d like to see that film.
Mi piacerebbe vedere quel film.
  • The conditional of volere is irregular:
Conditional of
(io)vorrei I’d like
(tu)vorresti you’d like
vorrebbehe/she’d like
you’d like
(noi)vorremmo we’d like
(voi)vorreste you’d like
(loro)vorrebbero they’d like
TipIn English, the conditional What would you like? is more polite than What do you want? In Italian there is no difference in politeness.
Vuoi un gelato?Would you like OR
Do you want an ice cream?
Vuole altro, signora?Would you like anything else,
  • You use the conditional of the verb potere (meaning to be able) with an infinitive.
  • to say what could be the case, or could happen.
Potresti avere ragione.You could be right.
Potrebbe essere vero.It could be true.
Potrebbero vendere la casa.They could sell the house.
  • to ask if somebody could do something.
Potresti chiudere la finestra?Could you close the window?
  • The conditional of potere is as follows:
Conditional of
(io)potreiI could
(tu)potrestiyou could
potrebbehe/she/it could
you could
(noi)potremmowe could
(voi)potresteyou could
(loro)potrebberothey could
  • You use the conditional of dovere (meaning to have to):
  • to say what you or somebody else should do
Dovrei fare un po’ di ginnastica.I should do some exercise.
Dovresti telefonare ai tuoi.You should phone your parents.
  • to talk about what should be the case, or should happen.
Dovrebbe arrivare verso le dieci.He should arrive at around ten.
Dovrebbe essere bello.This should be good.
  • The conditional of dovere is as follows:
Conditional of
(io)dovreiI should
(tu)dovrestiyou should
dovrebbehe/she/it should
you should
(noi)dovremmowe should
(voi)dovresteyou should
(loro)dovrebberothey should

4  Irregular conditionals

  • Some common verbs do not have a vowel before the r of the conditional ending, their endings are rei, resti, rebbe, remmo, reste, rebbero.
andareto goandreiandrestiandrebbeandremmoandresteandrebbero
cadereto fallcadreicadresticadrebbecadremmocadrestecadrebbero
sapereto knowsapreisaprestisaprebbesapremmosaprestesaprebbero
vedereto seevedreivedrestivedrebbevedremmovedrestevedrebbero
vivereto livevivreivivrestivivrebbevivremmovivrestevivrebbero
Non so se andrebbe bene.I don’t know if it would be okay.
Sapreste indicarmi la strada per la stazione?Could you tell me the way to the station?
Non vivrei mai in un paese caldo.I’d never live in a hot country.
  • Some verbs have no vowel before the conditional ending, and change their stem, for example, rimanere, tenere, venire:
rimanereto remainrimarreirimarrestirimarrebberimarremmorimarresterimarrebbero
tenereto holdterreiterrestiterrebbeterremmoterresteterrebbero
venireto comeverreiverrestiverrebbeverremmoverresteverrebbero
  • Verbs such as cominciare (meaning to start) and mangiare (meaning to eat), which end in –ciare or –giare, and which drop the i in the future tense also drop the i in the conditional.
Quando comincerebbe?When would it start?
Mangeresti quei funghi?Would you eat those mushrooms?
  • Verbs such as cercare (meaning to look for) and pagare (meaning to pay), which end in –care or –gare, and which add an h in the future tense also add an h in the conditional.
Probabilmente cercherebbe una scusa.He’d probably look for an excuse.
Quanto mi pagheresti?How much would you pay me?
  • For more information on Spelling, see Spelling.

5  The conditional of essere and avere

  • essere (meaning to be) and avere (meaning to have) have irregular conditionals.
Conditional of
MeaningConditional of
(io)sareiI’d beavreiI’d have
(tu)sarestiyou’d beavrestiyou’d have
it would be
you would be
it would have
you would have
(noi)saremmowe’d beavremmowe’d have
(voi)saresteyou’d beavresteyou’d have
(loro)sarebberothey’d beavrebberothey’d have
Sarebbe bello.It would be lovely.
Non so se sarei capace di farlo.I don’t know if I’d be able to do it.
Non avremmo tempo.We wouldn’t have time.
Avresti paura?Would you be frightened?
Key points
  • The Italian conditional is often the equivalent of a verb used with would in English.
  • would like, could and should are translated by the conditionals of volere, potere and dovere.
Grammar Extra!The conditional we have looked at so far is the present conditional. There is also the perfect conditional, which is used to talk about what would have happened in the past.The perfect conditional is made up of the conditional of avere or essere, and the past participle. Verbs which form their perfect tense with avere, such as fare (meaning to do) and pagare (meaning to pay) also form their perfect conditional with avere. Those forming their perfect with essere, such as andare (meaning to go) also form their perfect conditional with essere.
  • For more information about the Perfect tense and the Past participle, see The perfect tense-109.
Non l’avrei fatto così.I wouldn’t have done it like that.
Non l’avrebbero pagato.They wouldn’t have paid it.
Ci saresti andato?Would you have gone?
In Italian, unlike in English, the perfect conditional is used to report what somebody said in the past.
Ha detto che mi avrebbe aiutato.He said he would help me.
Hanno detto che sarebbero venuti.They said they would come.

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