If we wrote an article on the Spanish conditional tense, would you read it?Okay, so the sentence you just read used the conditional. The conditional tense is used to describe what would happen. You can use it when talking about hypothetical situations, e.g. ‘I would buy the dress.’
The conditional tense is formed by joining the future tense stem with the imperfect endings of -er and -ir verbs.
For regular verbs, the stem will simply be the infinitive.
The imperfect endings we need to stick onto the stems are:
Let’s look at some examples to make things clearer:
|Ir- + -ía → iría.||I would go.|
|Jugar- + -ías → jugarías.||You would play.|
|Comer- + -ía → Pablo comería.||Pablo would eat.|
|Luchar- + -íamos → lucharíamos.||We would fight.|
|Correr- + -íais → correríais.||You (informal plural) would run.|
|Cantar- + -ían → cantarían.||You (formal plural) would sing.|
So usually, you just take the infinitive, and add one of the endings given above. Read through these example sentences and you’ll see that it works the same for -ar, -er, and -ir verbs!
|Yo bailaría toda la noche.||I would dance all night.|
|Caminaría a casa.||She would walk home.|
|¿No ayudarían a su hijo?||Would you (formal plural) not help your son?|
|Romperías el columpio.||You would break the swing.|
|Rosa vendería su reloj.||Rosa would sell her watch.|
|Marga dijo que traeríais bebidas.||Marga said that you (informal plural) would bring drinks.|
|Viviríamos en una mansión.||We would live in a mansion.|
|Perder heriría su orgullo.||Losing would hurt his pride.|
|Carlos, escribirías buenas novelas.||Carlos, you’d write good novels.|
If you’ve looked at the future tense, you’ll know that some verbs have irregular stems. They need to be learnt, but luckily there aren’t too many. Here are the most common ones:
|caber (to fit)||cabr-|
|decir (to say)||dir-|
|haber (to have/to be/exist)*||habr-|
|hacer (to do/to make)||har-|
|poder (to be able to)||podr-|
|poner (to put)||pondr-|
|querer (to want)||querr-|
|saber (to know/to taste)||sabr-|
|salir (to leave)||saldr-|
|tener (to have)||tendr-|
|valer (to be worth)||valdr-|
|venir (to come)||vendr-|
*Haber is most commonly used in one of two ways. The first is ‘there is’/’there are.’ For example:
Hay un coche allí. (There is a car there.)
Habría un coche allí. (There would be a car there.)
The second is ‘to have’ in compound tenses.
He comido. (I have had dinner.)Habría comido. (I would have had dinner.)
Another irregularity to remember with stems is that if a stem has an accent, the accent moves to the ending, e.g.
Reír → Reiría
Often, the conditional tense is used with a condition, i.e. I would do something if certain conditions were met.
These conditions are conjugated in the imperfect subjunctive. There’s no need to go into the imperfect subjunctive in detail right now, but it’s helpful to be able to recognise it, so here are the common endings. Each person has two different forms for you to choose from, but I suggest the -ra form, as it’s more common than the -se form.
In each case, you take off the infinitive ending, and add the new endings onto the stem. There are exceptions (this is Spanish, after all!) but let’s not go into those right now!
So, one way we can use the conditional is using the word si (‘if’) in one of these formulae:
Si [imperfect subjunctive], [conditional].[Conditional] si [imperfect subjunctive].
|Si tuviera la oportunidad, iría a Francia.||If I had the opportunity, I would go to France.|
|Iría a Francia si tuviera la oportunidad.||I would go to France if I had the opportunity.|
|Si viniera Juan, me alegraría mucho.||If Juan came, I’d be really happy.|
|Me alegraría mucho si viniera Juan.||I’d be really happy if Juan came.|
|Si no dañara la salud, bebería.||If it weren’t bad for one’s health, I’d drink.|
|Bebería si no dañara la salud.||I’d drink if it weren’t bad for one’s health.|
Here are some more example sentences. Try to identify the conditional and the imperfect subjunctive in each case.
|Si tuviera un profe interesante, estudiaría más.||If I had an interesting teacher, I would study more.|
|Si mis alumnos mostraran más interés, les enseñaría cosas más variadas.||If my students showed more interest, I’d teach them a better variety of stuff.|
|Si perdiera todo mi dinero, ¿me amarías igual?||If I lost my money, would you still love me?|
|Conocerías a sus padres si salieras con él.||You’d meet his parents if you dated him.|
|Sandra leería más si tuviera el tiempo.||Sandra would read more if she had the time.|
|Todo sería mejor si Miguel regresará a casa.||Everything would be better if Miguel came home.|
|Hijo, si nos hicieras caso, te permitiríamos más libertad.||Son, if you did as we tell you, we would allow you more freedom.|
|Si tuviéramos la oportunidad, abriríamos una panadería.||If we had the opportunity, we’d open a bakery.|
|Si intentaran, conseguirían más.||If they tried, they would achieve more.|
Another cool way of using the conditional is in the phrase ‘if I were you.’ There are a couple of ways to say this in Spanish:
|Si yo fuera tú...||If I were you...|
|Si yo fuera tú, llamaría a Humberto.||If I were you, I’d call Humberto.|
|Yo que tú...||If I were you...|
|Yo que tú, compraría la camisa.||If I were you, I’d buy the shirt.|
Answering a few questions will help you figure out how well you know this tense! For each phrase, try and choose the correct answer.
1. Yo ___ el coche azul. (I would choose the blue car.)
2. ¿Te ___ ir al cine conmigo mañana? (Would you like to go to the cinema with me tomorrow?)
3. Juan ___ con cinco mujeres a la vez si pudiera. (Juan would date five women at once if he could.)
4. ___ que salir temprano. (We would have to leave early.)
5. Vosotros ___ muy buenos abogados. (You guys would be great lawyers.)
6. Beatriz y Laura ___ a Alemania si los vuelos costaran menos. (Beatriz and Laura would go to Germany if flights didn’t cost as much.)
Hopefully now you have a solid idea of how to say what would happen (if some condition were met).
Using what you learned in this lesson on Spanish conditionals, try and write your own conditional sentences in the comment section!
Annabel is a language-enthusiast from the UK. She studied Spanish and French at the University of Southampton (with an Erasmus study year in Madrid!) and recently graduated. She has interests across the Spanish-speaking world, and is a fan of language in general.
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The Spanish Imperfect Subjunctive: All You Need to Know
A Guide to the Spanish Indicative vs. Subjunctive
The Spanish Indicative Mood
How to Express the Future Tense in Spanish Using Ir a
Spanish Prefixes: A Quick Guide
An Easy Guide to Spanish Relative Pronouns