What is the Conditional Tense in Spanish?
The conditional tense in Spanish may seem intimidating at first, but after reading this article you’ll see that it’s one of the easiest tenses in Spanish grammar. You’ll not only learn quickly how to use it, but you’ll start using it on a daily basis.
You already know how to use the conditional in English, and today I’ll show you that in Spanish it’s pretty much the same.
Do you like to give advice?
Do you often speculate about what could happen in the future if only…?
Or maybe you like to speculate about the past?
Do you try to be polite with other people while asking them things?
If you answered “yes” to these questions, you already know the conditional tense. Now, it’s time to learn the conditional tense in Spanish.
So let’s start exploring!
What’s the Conditional Tense in Spanish?
The name itself of the conditional tense in Spanish is confusing because it’s not like other tenses we know—it doesn’t indicate when an action takes place but rather emphasizes its hypothetical nature.
Actually, in Spanish, the “conditional tense” goes by other names apart from el tiempo condicional (conditional tense). It’s also called el futuro hipotético (hypothetical future), or el tiempo potencial (potential tense).
To make it easier to start, and we’ll go deeper later, just think of situations when you would use the “would + verb” construction in English in reference to a potential future situation.
Usaría el tiempo condicional en español si supiera cómo hacerlo.
I would use the conditional tense in Spanish if I knew how to do it.
You see? It’s similar in usage to English.
Why Is the Conditional Tense in Spanish Easy to Learn?
Do you remember when you had to learn three different conjugations for regular verbs? The -ar, -er and -ir verbs that were pushing the limits of your memory? Well, you can relax, all the verb endings in the conditional tense in Spanish use the same stem ending of -ía after the infinitive!
amar – to love
yo amaría – I would love
Yo te amaría si fueras mi novio.
I would love you if you were my boyfriend.
comer – to eat
tú comerías – you would eat
Tú comerías todo esto si tuvieras más tiempo.
You would eat all this if you had more time.
vivir – to live
nosotros viviríamos – we would live
Viviríamos en este país si tuviera mejor comida.
We would live in this country if it had better food.
Having only a small number of irregular verbs is another advantage of the conditional tense in Spanish. You don’t have to memorize a long list and the ones you have to learn by heart are all so common that they’re actually quite catchy. You’ll see the details later on.
Is the Conditional Tense in Spanish the Same as “Would,” “Could” or “Should” in English?
To express “would,” you simply use the conditional form of almost any verb. For example, let’s try the verb ver (to see):
I would see him if I wanted to.
Lo vería si quisiera.
To express “could,” or “should,” in Spanish, you use the conditional tense of specific verbs.
“Could” is the conditional form of poder (to be to able to):
I could do it!
“Should” is the conditional form of deber (must, to have to):
We should tell her.
How to Form the Conditional Tense in Spanish
As you can see, forming the conditional tense in Spanish is one of the easiest parts of Spanish grammar. Simply use the stem -ía and conjugate regularly according to each pronoun. Like this:
|Spanish Pronoun||Conditional Tense|
Irregular Verbs in the Conditional Tense in Spanish
During my college years, “The Bescherelle” book with full conjugation charts for Spanish verbs was a must-have because Spanish verbs can get pretty complicated. Luckily, a reference book seems unnecessary to use with the conditional tense in Spanish. There are only 12 irregular verbs that change their root in this tense. To make it even easier, we can divide them into 3 groups:
1. Verbs that swap the last -i or -e in the infinitive to -d:
salir – saldría
(to leave, to go out)
Yo no saldría con este frío.
I wouldn’t go out when it’s so cold.
poner – pondría
(to put / to place)
¿Pondrías aquí una coma?
Would you put a comma here?
valer – valdría
(to be worth)
Valdría la pena intentarlo.
It would be worth trying.
venir – vendría
El doctor vendría a verte si fuera necesario.
The doctor would come to see you if it was necessary.
tener – tendría
Sin ti, nada tendría sentido.
Without you, nothing would make sense.
2. Verbs that remove the final -e from the infinitive:
haber – habría
(to have / to be)
No habría tanta polución si todos usaran carros eléctricos.
There wouldn’t be so much pollution if everybody used electric cars.
caber – cabría
¡Jamás cabría en este vestido!
I would never fit in this dress!
saber – sabría
Mi madre sabría qué hacer.
My mother would know what to do.
3. Random. No regular rules applied:
hacer – haría
Jamás lo haría si fuera tú.
I would never do it if I were you.
querer – querría
Si tuviera tu edad, no querría llevar esa ropa.
If I were your age, I wouldn’t like to wear these clothes.
decir – diría
¿Qué diría mi maestra?
What would my teacher say?
Isn’t it easy? Once you know the rules, the irregular verbs inside the conditional tense in Spanish do not seem that irregular anymore. If you already know the endings, you will realize how easy it is. Let’s look at one of the irregular verbs fully conjugated:
|Spanish Pronoun||Conditional Tense|
Three Types of Conditional Tenses in Spanish
At the beginning, you might not realize it but there are three types of conditional sentences. Don’t worry, they all use “would” and are almost intuitive. You just need to learn to distinguish the difference.
The three types of conditional tenses in Spanish are:
- Perfect conditional
It may seem overwhelming but it’s pretty easy. Let’s take the verb vivir as an example:
1. Simple Conditional
This one you already know as we have used it in all previous examples. I am sure you can make a sentence in simple conditional by now. Think of it as the English formula “would + verb.”
How to do it? Conjugate the main verb in the simple conditional tense.
Yo viviría en Hawaii si pudiera.
I would live in Hawaii if I could.
2. Continuous Conditional
The continuous conditional shows an action that would be in progress at a certain moment of time. It can also express speculation of what might be happening. In English, it translates to the structure “would be + gerund (-ing verb).”
How to do it? Conjugate the verb estar in the simple conditional tense and add the appropriate gerund. (i.e. amando, comiendo, viviendo)
Yo estaría ahora viviendo en Hawaii si no fuera por mi trabajo.
I would be living in Hawaii now if it weren’t for my job.
3. Perfect Conditional
The perfect conditional is used to make a conjecture about the past when we want to say what might have happened if the conditions had been favorable. It is similar to its English counterpart “would have + past participle.”
How to do it? Conjugate the word haber in the simple conditional tense (remember, it’s one of the irregular ones!) and add the appropriate past participle ending (i.e. amado, comido, vivido)
Yo habría vivido en Hawaii, si mi madre me hubiera dejado.
I would have lived in Hawaii if my mother had let me.
As you can see even all three types of the conditional tense in Spanish aren’t that complicated!
When to Use the Conditional Tense in Spanish
Now that you know so much about the conditional tense in Spanish and you also know how to form it, let’s see when you can use it.
1. To express what you would do in the future, if you could
Me iría a París si tuviera dinero.
I would go to Paris if I had the money.
2. To talk about something that will probably never happen (but you would love it to)
Sería increíble vivir en una isla.
It would be incredible to live on an island.
3. To give advice or ask for some.
¿Qué debería hacer?
What should I do?
4. To express politeness
¿Me podrías ayudar con mi tarea?
Could you help me with my homework?
5. To talk about the future in the past
Me dijo que viviría conmigo.
He told me he would live with me.
6. In the Spanish si clauses
Si pudiera hacerlo, lo haría ahora mismo.
If I could do it, I would do it right now.
7. To speculate about the past
Esta sería la razón por la que reprobó el examen.
That must have been the reason he failed the exam.
It’s Time to Practice!
Now that you’re an expert on the conditional tense in Spanish, start practicing it and you’ll see how easy it’s to master it. Sign up for a free class to practice the conditional tense with one of our friendly, native Spanish-speaking professionals who are certified to support you in your quest to Spanish fluency!
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