The Conditional Tense

Posted on 11th December 2013 in Conjugation

The Conditional Tense

By Russell Sabo

In Spanish, the conditional tense is one of the easiest conjugations to learn. And it is also a simple matter to determine when to use it. When you wish to express an action that has conditions, politeness, probability, or an indirect quotation, use the conditional tense.

waterfalls to paddle - conditional tense

  • Yo remaría estas cascadas si tuviera más experiencia en mi kayak. – I would paddle these waterfalls if I had more experience in my kayak.
  • Yo comería en ese restaurante pero no tengo suficiente dinero. – I would eat at that restaurant, but I don’t have enough money.
  • ¿Me llevarías al supermercado? – Would you take me to the supermarket?
  • Sería el gato. Ja ja! – It was probably the cat. Ha ha!
  • Dave dijo que tomaría cerveza hasta las once. – Dave said that he would drink beer until eleven o’clock.

How is the Conditional Tense Formed?


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  1. First, we’ll take the infinitive form of the verb: Hablar (to speak), Comer (to eat), and Vivir (to live).
  2. Add the following endings to the infinitive. Note: All the verbs will receive the same endings, regardless of their AR/ER/IR endings. In this way, the infinitive itself functions as the verb stem. I’ve included the AR/ER/IR conjugations for clarity. Remember that all of the conditional verbs have the accent mark on the í.
    • (yo) Hablar – Hablar receives “-ía” becoming “Hablaría”. Yo hablaría.
    • (tú) Hablar – Hablar receives “-ías” becoming “Hablarías”. Tú hablarías.
    • (Usted, él, ella) Hablar – Hablar receives “-ía” becoming “Hablaría”. Usted hablaría. Él hablaría. Ella hablaría.
    • (nosotros/as) Hablar – Hablar receives “-íamos” becoming “Hablaríamos”. Nosotros/as hablaríamos.
    • (vosotros/as) Hablar – Hablar receives “-íais” becoming “Hablaríais”. Vosotros/as hablaríais.
    • (Ustedes, ellos, ellas) Hablar – Hablar receives “-ían” becoming “Hablarían”. Ustedes hablarían. Ellos hablarían. Ellas hablarían.
  3. For verbs that normally end with ER and IR, add these ending to form the conditional tense.
    • (yo) Comer – Comer receives “-ía” becoming “Comería”. Yo comería.
    • (yo) Vivir – Vivir receives “-ía” becoming “Viviría”. Yo viviría.
    • (tú) Comer – Comer receives “-ías” becoming “Comerías”. Tú comerías.
    • (tú) Vivir – Vivir receives “-ías” becoming “Viviríase”. Tú vivirías.
    • (Usted, él, ella) Comer – Comer receives “-ía” becoming “Comería”. Usted comería. Él comería. Ella comería.
    • (Usted, él, ella) Vivir – Vivir receives “-ía” becoming “Viviría”. Usted viviría. Él viviría. Ella viviría.
    • (nosotros/as) Comer – Comer receives “-íamos” becoming “Comeríamos”. Nosotros/as comeríamos.
    • (nosotros/as) Vivir – Vivir receives “-íamos” becoming “Viviríamos”. Nosotros/as viviríamos.
    • (vosotros/as) Comer – Comer receives “-íais” becoming “Comeríais”. Vosotros/as comeríais.
    • (vosotros/as) Vivir – Vivir receives “-íais” becoming “Viviríais”. Vosotros/as viviríais.
    • (Ustedes, ellos, ellas) Comer – Comer receives “-ían” becoming “Comerían”. Ustedes comerían. Ellos comerían. Ellas comerían.
    • (Ustedes, ellos, ellas) Vivir – Vivir receives “-ían” becoming “Vivirían”. Ustedes vivirían. Ellos vivirían. Ellas vivirían.
  • Here are the conjugated verbs once again with their meanings.
    • Hablar+ía=Hablaría (I would speak), Comer+ía=Comería (I would eat), Vivir+ía=Viviría (I would live)
    • Hablar+ías=Hablarías (you would speak), Comer+ías=Comerías (you would eat), Vivir+ías=Vivirías (you would live)
    • Hablar+ía=Hablaría (You (formal) would speak, he would speak, she would speak)
    • Comer+ía=Comería (You (formal) would eat, he would to eat, she would eat)
    • Vivir+ía=Vivía (You (formal) would live, he would live, she would live)
    • Hablar+íamos=Hablaríamos (we would speak), Comer+íamos=Comeríamos (we would eat), Vivir+íamos=Viviríamos (we would live)
    • Hablar+íais=Hablaríais (you all (informal) would speak), Comer+íais=Comeríais (you all (informal) would eat), Vivir+íais=Viviríais (you all (informal) would live)
    • Hablar+ían=Hablarían (you all (formal) would speak, they (males or a mixed group) would speak, they (all females) would speak)
    • Comer+ían=Comerían (you all (formal) would eat, they (males or a mixed group) would eat, they (all females) would eat)
    • vivir+ían=Vivirían (you all (formal) would live, they (males or a mixed group) would live, they (all females) would live)

    Conditional Tense and Reflexive Verbs

    The reflexive pronoun appears in front of the reflexive verb.

    • Ducharse – to take a shower
    • me ducharía
    • te ducharías
    • se ducharía
    • nos ducharíamos
    • vos ducharíais
    • se ducharían

    Conditional Tense and Irregular Verbs

    There are 12 irregular verbs in the conditional tense which are included in 3 patterns. As is normal in the Spanish language, the irregular verbs are always some of the verbs one uses the most. However, because there are only 12, they are easy to memorize. As a bonus, these 12 verbs are also the same 12 irregular verbs in the future tense, so once you know these verbs, you’ll also know the future tense irregular verbs. Here are the verbs in their respective Pattern families.

    Pattern 1

    • caber – to be contained, to fit / Cabr-
    • haber – to have (auxiliary verb) / Habr-
    • poder – to be able, can / Podr-
    • querer – to want / querr-
    • saber – to know, to know how / Sabr-

    Here is an example conjugation of a Pattern 1 irregular verb in the conditional tense.

    • Poder – to be able, can
    • yo podría – I would be able, I could
    • tú podrías – you would be able, you could
    • Usted, él, ella podría – you (formal), he, she would be able. you (formal), he, she could
    • nosotros/as podríamos – we would be able, we could
    • vosotros/as podríais – you all (informal) would be able, you all (informal) could
    • Ustedes, ellos, ellas podrían – you all (formal), they (all males or a mixed group), ellas (all females) would be able. you all (formal), they (all males or a mixed group), they (all females) could.

    Pattern 2

    • poner – to place, to put / Pondr-
    • salir – to leave / Saldr-
    • tener – to have / Tendr-
    • valer – to be worth / Valdr-
    • venir – to come / Vendr-

    Here is an example conjugation of a Pattern 2 irregular verb in the conditional tense.

    • Tener – to have
    • yo tendría – I would have
    • tú tendrías – you would have
    • Usted, él, ella tendría – you (formal), he, she would have
    • nosotros/as tendríamos – we would have
    • vosotros/as tendríais – you all (informal) would have
    • Ustedes, ellos, ellas tendrían – you all (formal), they (all males or a mixed group), ellas (all females) would have

    Pattern 3

    • decir – to say, to tell / Dir-
    • hacer – to do, to make / Har-

    Here is an example conjugation of a Pattern 3 irregular verb in the conditional tense.

    • Decir – to say, to tell
    • yo diría – I would say, I would tell
    • tú dirías – you would say, you would tell
    • Usted, él, ella diría – you (formal), he, she would say. you (formal), he, she would tell
    • nosotros/as diríamos – we would say, we would tell
    • vosotros/as diríais – you all (informal) would say, you all (informal) would tell
    • Ustedes, ellos, ellas dirían – you all (formal), they (all males or a mixed group), ellas (all females) would say. you all (formal), they (all males or a mixed group), they (all females) would tell.

    Hay and the Conditional Tense

    When you use the conditional tense of the word “Hay”, which means “there is” or “there are” you will use the word “Habría” – there would be.

    • Habría más oportunidades si las quisieras. – There will be more opportunities if you want them.
    • Habría más comida pero Ted se la comió toda. – There would be more food, but Ted ate it all.

    When you want to say, “It would be necessary to…” you will use “Habría que”.

    • Habría que pagar las cuentas. – It would be necessary to pay the bills.
    • Habría que llegar temprano. – It would be necessary to arrive early.

    When to Use the Conditional Tense

    Using the conditional tense is very simple. For the most part, any time you would use the word “would” + verb in English (would eat, would pay, would use) you will use the conditional tense in Spanish. Below I’ve listed the conditions of when you would use the conditional tense.

    Stating a Conditional, Hypothetical, or Potential Action

    Use the conditional tense when stating that a condition needs to be fulfilled before something else can or will happen, or potentially happen.

    • Me levantaría pesas pero el gimnasio está cerrado. – I would lift weights but the gym is closed.
    • Yo cocinaría la cena pero no tenemos comida. – I would cook dinner, but we don’t have food.

    Showing Courtesy or Politeness

    When asking for something or giving a command, using the conditional tense to show courtesy or politeness will “soften” the request or demand. Instead of saying, “Give it to me!” or “Do it now!”, it’s more polite to say, “Could you give it to me?” or “Would you do it now?”

    • ¿Me lo podrías dar? – Could you give it to me?
    • ¿Lo harías ahora? – Would you do it now?

    To Convey Probability

    You can say that something is probable by using the conditional tense

    • Serían las tres de la mañana. – It was probably three o’clock in the morning.

    Stating an Indirect Quotation

    Use the conditional tense when you are quoting something that somebody else said.

    • Robert le dijo que comería toda la pizza. – Robert told him that he would eat the entire pizza.
    • Ella me dijo que saldríamos esta noche. – She told me that we would go out tonight.

    Contrary-To-Fact Statements

    When you are talking about the result of something that doesn’t exixt or hasn’t happened, you will use the conditional tense along with the imperfect subjunctive. For example: If I won the lottery, I would buy a house for my parents. Here, you haven’t won anything in reality; it’s merely a wish, or a hypothetical statement. Stating that you would buy a house for your parents as a result of hypothetically winning the lottery will require the conditional tense. These are normally If/Then statements about things that aren’t real (yet).

    • Si yo ganara la lotería, compraría una casa para mis padres. – If I won the lottery, I would buy a house for my parents.
    • Si tú tuvieras otro zapato, podrías salir de la casa. – If you had another shoe, you could leave the house.

     

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    Click here to learn more about the Conditional Tense – Learning Spanish Like Crazy Level 2 Nivel 2
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