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Spanish conditional tense - Forms and usage

07 Jun, 2017 Popular Articles, Spanish for Beginners
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In Spanish, the conditional tense is used to talk about probability, possibility, or hypothetical situation. It is usually translated as would, could, probably, or must have in English. In this lesson, we will learn about different forms of conditional tense in Spanish and verb conjugation in the conditional.

Spanish conditional tense

The conditional tense form is much like the Spanish future simple tense. 

Regular conditional forms

In order to form the conditional tense with regular verbs, you just need to add the conditional endings to the end of the infinitive.

To conjugate regular -ar, -er, and -ir verbs in the conditional, simply add one of the following endings to the infinitive:

yo -ía
tú -ías
usted, él, ella -ía
nosotros -íamos
vosotros -íais
ustedes, ellos, ellas -ían

For example:

El alumno dijo que estudiaría una hora más - The student said that he would study one more hour

Compraría esa camisa - I would buy that shirt

Si fuera rico, me gustaría viajar por todo el mundo - If I were rich, I would travel all over the world

Estaríamos ocupados cuando llamaste - We were probably busy when you called

Spanish conditional tense verb endingsSpanish conditional tense - Verb endings

Irregular conditional forms

Any stems that are irregular in the Spanish future simple tense are also irregular in the conditional tense.

Note: Both regular and irregular verbs have the same set of endings, however, stems of the irregular change. And they change in the same way as they do in the future tense.

Irregular verbs fall into three categories:

1. Verbs with the last vowel in the infinitive is replace with -d 

 Simply replace the e or i with -d then add the conditional endings. Verbs in this category include: poner, valer, salir, venir

The table below shows tener conjugation in the conditional:

SubjectTener (to have) conjugation
yo tendría
tú tendrías
usted, él, ella tendría
nosotros tendríamos
vosotros tendríais
ustedes, ellos, ellas tendrían

For example:

Usted tendría una casa nueva - You would have a new house

2. Verbs with the last vowel in the infinitive is removed.

Verbs that fall into this category include: poder, caber, haber, querer, saber

In order to form the stem of verbs of this category, simply remove the vowel from the infinitive ending then add the conditional endings. The table below shows the conditional conjugation of the verb poder:

SubjectTener conjugation
yo podría
tú podrías
usted, él, ella podría
nosotros podríamos
vosotros podríais
ustedes, ellos, ellas podrían

For example:

¿Podrías pasar el agua? - Would you pass the water?

3. Irregular stems

Decir (to say) and hacer (to do/ to make) have different stem changes. Check out the table below to see the conditional conjugation of these two verbs:

SubjectDecir conjugationHacer conjugation
usted, él, elladiríaharía
ustedes, ellos, ellasdiríanharían

For example:

Haría el pastel si tuviera tiempo - I would make the cake if I had time

Spanish conditional tense - Verb conjugation

Spanish conditional tense - Verb conjugation

Uses of the conditional

1. To express hypothetical actions or events

For example:

Si tuviera dinero, iría al cine - If I had money, I would go to the movies

2. To show speculation about something in the past

For example:

Aquél día correrían más de veinticinco kilómetros - That day they must have run more than 25 kilometers

3. To indicate what would happen not because of some certain specific circumstance

Yo comería la comida, pero soy vegetariano - I would eat the meal, but I'm vegetarian

4. To make polite requests

Por favor, ¿podría decirme a qué hora abre la gasolinera? - Could you please tell me what time the gas station opens?

You may want to see: Spanish reciprocal verbs and pronouns

5. To ask for advice

For example: 

¿Cuál compraría Ud.? - Which one would you buy?

6. To express the future from the perspective of the past

For example: 

Yo sabía que abrirían la tienda a las siete - I knew that they would open the store at seven o’clock.

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