One of the four finite moods in Italian, the conditional refers to hypothetical events. The Italian present conditional tense (condizionale presente) expresses what would happen under certain conditions, and roughly corresponds to “would” in English.Would you like to master the condizionale presente and express yourself in a more fluid and flexible way? Here is your guide. Let’s start!
Using the condizionale presente
In Italian, the condizionale presente is used to:
L’estate prossima andrei volentieri in vacanza in Sicilia – Next summer I would gladly go to Sicily on holidayNicola vorrebbe tanto rivederti – Nicola would like to see you again
Se fossi in te, chiederei subito scusa a Nadia – If I were you, I would immediately apologize to NadiaPenso che dovremmo prenderci una pausa – I think we should take a break
Potresti abbassare il volume, per favore? – Could you please turn down the volume?Gradireste del caffè? – Would you like some coffee?
Mattia dovrebbe studiare di più se non vuole essere bocciato di nuovo – Mattia should study more if he doesn’t want to repeat the year again
Non so se andrei di nuovo in quell’albergo – I don’t know if I would go to that hotel again
Domani potrebbe arrivare un’altra ondata di caldo, le temperature sono in aumento – Another heatwave could start tomorrow, temperatures are rising
Cosa faresti al posto mio? – What would you do if you were in my place?
Secondo alcuni testimoni, i rapinatori sarebbero quattro – According to some witnesses, the thieves were four
As you can see, the Italian present conditional tense can be used both in main clauses and subordinate clauses.
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The hypothetical period
The Italian present conditional is used with the imperfect subjunctive (congiuntivo imperfetto) to express hypothesis in the hypothetical period (periodo ipotetico).
The hypothetical phrase is made of two clauses. The subordinate clause is introduced by se (if) and expresses a condition, whereas the main clause expresses a consequence. You can use this lovely construction to set up all kinds of situations, imagine what could be and talk about something that might happen under certain conditions.
Have a look at some examples:
Se avessi tempo, andrei in palestra ogni giorno – If I had time, I would go to the gym every day (but I don’t have time, so I don’t)
Se fossi ricco come il Sultano del Brunei, comprerei anche io 300 Ferrari e 600 Rolls-Royce – If I was as rich as the Sultan of Brunei, I would buy 300 Ferraris and 600 Rolls-Royces too (but I’m not rich, so I can’t)
Investirei in Bitcoin se offrisse buone prospettive di guadagno – I would invest in Bitcoin if it offered significant advantage (but it doesn’t, so I don’t)
The subordinate clause can also be introduced by:
Nel caso in cui non poteste avere figli, valutereste l’adozione? – If you could not have children, would you consider adoption?
Andrei volentieri a vedere la partita, purché non ci siano scontri tra le tifoserie – I would gladly go and see the match, as long as there are no fights between supporters of the two clubs
Qualora ti venisse offerto un lavoro in Finlandia, cosa faresti? – What would you do if you were offered a job in Finland?
Remember that in this case, se/qualora/nel caso in cui/purché always stick with the imperfect subjunctive. Don’t use them before the conditional.
How to form the condizionale presente
The condizionale presente is easy to construct in Italian. You just have to remove the verb’s ending and add the appropriate conditional ending.To make the present conditional of regular verbs ending in -are and -ere, take the stem and add the following conditional endings:
Cantare (to sing)
|Io canterei||I would sing|
|Tu canteresti||You would sing|
|Lui/lei canterebbe||He/she/it would sing|
|Noi canteremmo||We would sing|
|Voi cantereste||Y’all would sing|
|Loro canterebbero||They would sing|
Vendere (to sell)
|Io venderei||I would sell|
|Tu venderesti||You would sell|
|Lui/lei venderebbe||He/she/it would sell|
|Noi venderemmo||We would sell|
|Voi vendereste||Y’all would sell|
|Loro venderebbero||They would sell|
As you can see, the condizionale presente has the same endings for verbs that belong to both the -are and -ere conjugation, just like with the futuro semplice.
To make the present conditional of regular verbs ending in -ire, take the stem and add the following endings:
Dormire (to sleep)
|Io dormirei||I would sleep|
|Tu dormiresti||You would sleep|
|Lui/lei dormirebbe||He/she/it would sleep|
|Noi dormiremmo||We would sleep|
|Voi dormireste||Y’all would sleep|
|Loro dormirebbero||They would sleep|
Not so bad, right? This works with all regular verbs.
Irregular verbs in the present conditional
The condizionale presente has the same irregular verbs as the futuro semplice.Both essere (to be) and avere (to have) are irregular in the present conditional. Their conjugations are as follows:
Essere (to be)
|Io sarei||I would be|
|Tu saresti||You would be|
|Lui/lei sarebbe||He/she/it would be|
|Noi saremmo||We would be|
|Voi sareste||Y’all would be|
|Loro sarebbero||They would be|
Avere (to have)
|Io avrei||I would have|
|Tu avresti||You would have|
|Lui/lei avrebbe||He/she/it would have|
|Noi avremmo||We would have|
|Voi avreste||They would have|
|Loro avrebbero||They would have|
As with the futuro semplice, verbs ending in -care and -gare have a change in spelling when conjugated.
Verbs ending in -care, like cercare (to look for), praticare (to practice), spaccare (to break) and elencare (to list), add an “h” after the “c,” to preserve the /k/ sound of the infinitive.
Cercare (to search)
Verbs ending in -gare, like litigare (to argue), pagare (to pay), negare (to deny), spiegare (to explain) and pregare (to pray), add an “h” after the “g,” in order to preserve the hard sound of the infinitive.
Pagare (to pay)
Verbs ending in -giare and -ciare, like parcheggiare (to park), danneggiare (to damage, to ruin), mangiare (to eat), rinunciare (to renounce), cominciare (to begin), cacciare (to hunt), intralciare (to hinder) and baciare (to kiss), drop the letter “i” before adding the conditional endings.
Parcheggiare (to park)
Cominciare (to begin)
Here are some additional groups of irregular verbs in the condizionale presente.
- 1In first group, the “a” in -are and the “e” in -ere gets eliminated.
Dovere (to have to, to must)
|Io dovrei - ||I should|
|Tu dovresti||You should|
|Lui/lei dovrebbe||He/she/it should|
|Noi dovremmo||We should|
|Voi dovreste||Y’all should|
|Loro dovrebbero||They should|
Potere (to can, to be able to)
|Io potrei||I could|
|Tu potresti||You could|
|Lui/lei potrebbe||He/she/it could|
|Noi potremmo||We could|
|Voi potreste||Y’all could|
|Loro potrebbero||They could|
Sapere (to know)
Andare (to go)
Cadere (to fall)
Vedere (to see)
Vivere (to live)
2. The second group takes a double “r.”
Volere (to want)
|Io vorrei||I would like|
|Tu vorresti||You would like|
|Lui/lei vorrebbe||He/she/it would like|
|Noi vorremmo||We would like|
|Voi vorreste||Y’all would like|
|Loro vorrebbero||They would like|
Tenere (to keep)
Venire (to come)
Bere (to drink)
Rimanere (to remain)
Produrre (to produce)
Remember that all verbs that end in -durre, like tradurre (to translate), dedurre (to deduce), condurre (to drive), indurre (to induce), introdurre (to introduce) and riprodurre (to reproduce), behave in the same way.
3. Dare (to give), fare (to do) and stare (to stay) add the ending to the infinitive:
Dare (to give)
Fare (to do)
Stare (to stay)
How to translate the condizionale presente into English
As mentioned previously, the Italian present conditional tense is usually translated into English with “would” plus a verb.
Se Roberto mi chiedesse di uscire, sarei felicissima – If Roberto asked me out, I would be very happy
Ci parlerei io direttamente, ma non ho più il suo numero – I’d talk to him directly, but I no longer have his number
However, it is wrong to think of the Italian condizionale presente as a direct translation of “would” and its myriad of uses. As you know, there is not always an exact one-to-one correspondence between how tenses are used in English and Italian. Unlike in English, the Italian condizionale presente is not used to express habits in the past. The imperfetto is to be used for that:
I would go to work each day by bus – Andavo al lavoro in autobus ogni giornoThe present conditional along with the verb dovere (to have to, to must) can be translated as:
Dovresti studiare di più – You should study more
Dovresti ascoltare con attenzione – You ought to listen carefully
Cosa dovrei fare? – What am I supposed to do?
The present conditional along with the verb potere (to can, to be able to) can be translated as:
Scusa, potresti chiudere la porta? – Excuse me, could you please close the door?
Non spegnere il telefono stasera, Deborah potrebbe aver bisogno di chiamarti – Don’t switch off your phone tonight, Deborah may need to call youThe present conditional along with the verb volere (to want) can be translated as:
Vorrei proprio rivedere Ocean’s Eleven / Mi piacerebbe rivedere Ocean’s Eleven – I really would like to see Ocean’s Eleven again
Both “vorrei” and “mi piacerebbe” can be used to say what you would like to do.
To sum up...
Se avessi più tempo libero, farei volontariato al canile – If I had more free time, I would volunteer in dog shelters
Mi accompagneresti alla stazione domani, per favore? – Would you please come to the train station with me tomorrow?
Se fossi in te, non mi fiderei di Danilo - If I were you, I wouldn’t trust Danilo
Practice as much as you can until you get the hang of it. The more you expose yourself to Italian and use the condizionale presente, the more this and other grammatical structures will become a part of you. A presto!
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