Italian Conditional: Teacher’s Guide

The Italian Conditional

Present and Past Conditional

The conditional is composed of two forms: the present conditional (e.g abiterei – I would live) and the past or compound conditional (avrei abitato – I would have lived). The first is the most common one and the one you should focus on as beginner learners. If you’re looking into the compound conditional, visit this other page.

The present conditional (condizionale presente) is a verb form that is the equivalent of the English pattern ” would + any verb”, when it’s used to express a wish or possibility.

The conditional mood in Italian is used:

  • to express what you would do if…,
  • ask something politely,
  • make requests seem less assertive,
  • make suggestions in a way that is more polite.

You can see that the use of the conditional in Italian is quite similar to the English conditional.

Examples:

  • Viaggerei di più se avessi più tempo libero – I would travel more if I had more free time
  • Al posto tuo, cambierei lavoro – In your place, I would change jobs 
  • Dovresti studiare di più  – You should study more 

Italian vs. English

While in English the conditional form is expressed by two elements (the auxiliary “would” + a verb), the same idea is expressed by a single word in Italian.

For example:

  • I would do → Farei
  • We would travel → Viaggeremmo
  • They would go → Andrebbero 
  • I would be → Sarei 

Regular Conjugation of the Present Conditional

To conjugate a verb in the present conditional mood in Italian, follow these steps:

  1. Remove the final “e” from the infinitive form of the verb.
  2. For “-ARE” verbs, change the “a” in the stem to “e”.
  3. Add the appropriate conditional endings, which are the same for all verb groups (-are, -ere, -ire).

Here are the endings to use:

PronounEndings
io-ei
tuesti
lui/lei/Leiebbe
noiemmo
voieste
loroebbero
Present Conditional Conjugation

Examples:

  • Lavorare (to work) -> Lavorerei (I would work)
  • Scrivere (to write) -> Scriverei (I would write)
  • Finire (to finish) -> Finirei (I would finish)

Irregular Conjugation of the Present Conditional

Irregular Present Conditional Forms in Italian

There are a few verbs that present a slight irregularity in their conjugation as they change their stem. They are not many, but they are very frequent verbs.

Verbs that lose the “-E-” in the stem:

Infinitive Present Conditional
viverevivr-ei
andareandr-ei
doveredovr-ei
poterepotr-ei
saperesapr-ei
vederevedr-ei
caderecadr-ei
Irregular Conditional Conjugations in Italian

Verbs that form the future and conditional with “-RR-“:

VerbPresent Conditional
volerevorr-ei
tenereterr-ei
venireverr-ei
rimanererimarr-ei
Irregular Conditional Conjugations in Italian

These verbs have irregular stems that modify the regular endings in the present conditional mood.

Common mistakes 

One of the most frequent errors I observe in my classes is that students automatically translate the simple form “would” using the verb vorrei. However, the translation of vorrei is “I would like,” not “would.” Vorrei is the only conditional form of the verb “volere.”

  • Vorrei → I would like
  • Vorrei viaggiare → I would like to travel
  • Viaggierei → I would travel

Vorrei, Potrei, Dovrei

There are verbs whose conditional forms are very common, namely the conditional forms of the modal verbs “volere,” “potere,” and “dovere.” When using these verbs, remember they should be followed by the infinitive as they all belong to the category of so-called modal verbs.

PronounVolere (to want)Potere (to be able to)Dovere (to have to)
iovorrei (I would like)potrei (I could)dovrei (I should)
tuvorresti (you would like)potresti (you could)dovresti (you should)
lui/lei/Leivorrebbe (he/she/you would like)potrebbe (he/she/you could)dovrebbe (he/she/you should)
noivorremmo (we would like)potremmo (we could)dovremmo (we should)
voivorreste (you all would like)potreste (you all could)dovreste (you all should)
lorovorrebbero (they would like)potrebbero (they could)dovrebbero (they should)

Examples with “volere”

  • Vorresti venire a cena domani?  – Would you like to come to dinner tomorrow? 
  • Vorreste fare un viaggio in Africa con noi?  – Would you like to travel to Africa with us?

Examples with “potere”

This conditional form of potere is especially used to ask something politely or make a request less assertive.

  • Potreste ripetere? – Could you repeat?
  • Potreste mandarmi un’ email? – Could you (all) send me an email? 

Examples with “dovere”

This conditional form of dovere corresponds to the English “I should, you should, etc.”  and it’s used especially to give suggestions in a polite manner.

  • Dovresti dormire di più – You should sleep more 
  • Non dovresti mangiare così tanti dolci – You shouldn’t eat so many sweets 

Present Conditional with the “If Clause”

The present conditional in also used in the  “if clauses” together with the subjunctive forms.  

For example,

  • Se avessi più tempo, studierei di più – If I had more time, I would study more
  • Se vivessi al mare, ci andrei tutti i giorni – If I lived by the sea, I would go there every day

Serena Capilli

I’m the creative force behind both this blog and my collection of short stories in simple Italian for language learners, available on Amazon.

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Ciao, I’m Serena! I’m the creative force behind both this blog and my collection of short stories in simple Italian for language learners, available on Amazon.

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