Italian present conditional explained
“Salutarsi è una pena così dolce che ti direi addio fino a domani.” wrote Shakespeare in one of his most famous plays, Romeo and Juliet. The verb “direi” is the present tense of the conditional form of “dire”.
The present conditional tense (condizionale presente) is the equivalent to the English construction of “would” plus verb (for instance: I would never leave).
Forming conditionals in Italian is quite easy: take any verb, drop the final -e in its infinitive form, and add an appropriate ending—endings are the same for all three conjugation groups of verbs. The only spelling change occurs with -are verbs, which change the a of the infinitive ending to e.
Italian present conditional: when to use it
Now comes the tricky part. When should you use a present conditional?
In Italian grammar, we use the conditional tense when it refers to an action that is possible or likely, and that depends on a particular condition, to express a desire or a purpose, to say or to ask something kindly and to express doubt and uncertainty.
Example: I would buy ice cream, but I haven’t got enough money.
Vorrei comprare un gelato ma non ho abbastanza soldi.
It can be used in two tenses, the present, by conjugation of the appropriate noun, or the past. For now, we’re going to deal with the present tense.
- Dormirei tutto il giorno se fosse possibile.
I would sleep all day if it was possible.
The Italian Conditional Tense represents the English verb tense that uses WOULD + VERB.
- Avrei sposato Bob, se l’avessi conosciuto prima.
I would have married Bob, if I had met him earlier.
The conditional can also be used in Italian to express “could”, with the conjugated forms of potere (“to be able to”), or “should”, with the conjugated forms of dovere (“to have to”):
Loro dovrebbero andare a New York = They should go to New York.
Sometimes in spoken Italian, people use the imperfect instead of the subjunctive or conditional but it’s incorrect. So be very careful when having to express a possibility and think about what the correct form of the verb you should use. Natives struggle with this a lot, so don’t be surprised if you hear this common error from them. Just remember that it’s wrong!
- Se lo sapevo andavo al mare. WRONG!
Se l’avessi saputo, sarei andato al mare. CORRECT
If I had known it, I would have gone to the sea.
Present conditional tense: conjugations
Learn more about Italian verb tenses.
Present conditional: sentences
Here are some examples of conditional tense sentences:
- Vorrei una pizza. (I would like a pizza.)
- Parlerei con mia sorella, ma sono stanco. (I would talk to my sister, but I’m tired.)
- Mi daresti la tua gomma? (Would you give me your rubber?)