Condizionale Passato: A Simple Guide

In Italian, there is a present conditional (condizionale presente) and a past conditional (condizionale passato o composto)

The key difference between the present conditional and the past conditional is that the first comprises one element, and the second includes two elements, (the auxiliary and the past participle. The auxiliary will be the present conditional of “avere” or “essere”, according to the verb.

In this context:

fareiPresent ConditionalI’d do, I would do
avrei fattoPast ConditionalI would have done

Present Conditional vs. Past Conditional

Condizionale Presente vs. Condizionale Passato

What’s the difference between present conditional and past conditional?

As the names suggest, the present conditional describes a situation that might or not happen in the present, today, or in general. 

Al posto tuo, comprerei una nuova macchinaIn your place, I would buy a new car

Instead, the past conditional describes a situation that might have happened in the past (yesterday, last week, or 10 years ago) but didn’t, and you can’t change it.

10 anni fa, avrei comprato una casa a Roma ma non avevo soldi10 years ago I would have bought a home in Rome, but I didn’t have enough money.

How to Conjugate Condizionale Passato (Past Conditional)

The past conditional is always a combination of two elements: an auxiliary and past participle. The auxiliary, as in any other compound tense (e.g. the passato prossimo) can be essere or avere. In this case, we’ll use the present conditional of the auxiliaries + the past participle.


INFINITIVEPresent Conditional [IT]Present Conditional [ENG]Past Conditional [IT]Past Conditional [ENG]
mangiaremangereiI would eatavrei mangiatoI would have eaten
farefareiI would doavrei fattoI would have done
andareandreiI would gosarei andato/aI would have gone
doveredovreiI shouldavrei dovutoI should have
poterepotreiI couldavrei potutoI could have
volerevorreiI would likeavrei volutoI would have liked
present vs. past conditional in Italian

Generally speaking, the Italian past conditional corresponds to the English use of would have + any verb.

The past conditional can be referred too as a “compound conditional” (condizionale composto) because it combines two elements: an auxiliary and a past participle. 

Past Conditional of ESSERE and AVERE

Past Conditional of “ESSERE” (to be):

iosarei stato/aI would have been
tusaresti stato/ayou would have been
lui/leisarebbe stato/ahe/she/it would have been
noisaremmo stati/ewe would have been
voisareste stati/eyou would have been
lorosarebbero stati/ethey would have been
condizionale passato of ‘essere’ chart

Past Conditional of “AVERE” (to have):

ioavrei avutoI would have had
tuavresti avutoyou would have had
lui/leiavrebbe avutohe/she/it would have had
noiavremmo avutowe would have had
voiavreste avutoyou would have had
loroavrebbero avutothey would have had
condizionale passato of ‘avere’ chart

Main Uses of Condizionale Passato

The past conditional is used to:

1. Say what you would have done if.

Se avessi avuto più tempo, sarei andata in palestraIf I had more time, I would have gone to the gym

2. Say what you should or shouldn’t have done or what you could or couldn’t have done, with the use of the modal verbs dovere (must) and potere (can).

Avrei dovuto studiare di più, ma non ho avuto tempoI should have studied more, but I didn’t have time
Avrei dovuto fare una dieta, ma ero in vacanzaI should have been on a diet, but I was on vacation
Avrei potuto chiamarlo, ma non l’ho fattoI could have called him, but I didn’t

3. To say I wish or I would have liked.

Avrei voluto viaggiare di più da giovaneI wish I had traveled more when I was younger

4. to express the future in the past.

Mi ha chiamato per dirmi che non sarebbe venutaShe called me to say that she wouldn’t come

Past Conditional with the “if clause” (If I had had…)

We use the past conditional with the congiuntivo trapassato (perfect subjunctive) to say something that what we would have done if . We are describing something that might have happened in the past under certain circumstances, but eventually didn’t. This is also called “periodo ipotetico di terzo tipo”.


Certainly, here’s a chart for the provided Italian sentences along with their English translations:

Se avessi avuto più soldi, mi sarei iscritta ad una migliore universitàIf I had more money, I would have applied to a better school
Se avessi avuto più tempo, avrei praticato più sportIf I had more time, I would have exercised more

‘I could have done’ or ‘I should have done’:

The past conditional with ‘dovere’ and ‘potere’.

For a start, we call modal verbs are dovere, potere, volere. We call them “modal” because, grammar-wise, they have a lot in common. For instance, they are always followed by an infinitive verb.

So, when they are used with the past conditional, to say what one should have done, or could have done, just like in English, they comprise three elements: the auxiliary of the present conditional + past participle of the modal verb* + infinitive verb 

Examples : 

Avresti dovuto studiare di piùYou should have studied more
Avresti potuto chiamarloYou could have called him
Avremmo voluto viaggiare di piùWe would have liked traveling more or we wish we traveled more

How to choose the correct auxiliary with modal verbs? 

A special note goes to choosing the correct auxiliary with the modal verbs in the past conditional.

When thinking of what auxiliary to use, you should look at the modal verb’s infinitive.

Let’s say the verb dovere is followed by andare, then the correct auxiliary to use is essere.

If the verb “fare” follows dovere, the correct auxiliary to use is avere. 


Sarei dovuto andare in palestra, ma non ci sono andataI should have gone to the gym, but I didn’t
Avrei dovuto fare i compiti, ma non li ho fattiI should have done my homework, but I didn’t

If the auxiliary verb is essere, you should make sure that the modal verb’s past participle agrees with the gender and number of the subject. 


I should have gonesarei dovuto/a andare
We could have gonesaremmo potuti/e andare
I would have liked to gosarei voluto/a andare
I should have traveledavrei dovuto viaggiare
I could have traveledavrei potuto viaggiare
I would have liked to travelavrei voluto viaggiare

I wish:

Past Conditional of “piacere” & “volere”

The past conditional of piacere and volere is translated into English in the same way.

Mi sarebbe piaciuto studiare araboI would have liked learning Arabic
Avrei voluto studiare araboI would have liked learning Arabic

Often, the past conditional of piacere and volere is better translated into English with “I WISH

Mi sarebbe piaciuto uscire con teI wish I went out with you
Sarei voluto uscire con teI would have liked to go out with you


Il futuro nel passato (the future in the past)

We use the past conditional to express the future in the past, that is to say, an action that took place after another one, in the past. 

In other words, the future in the past expresses a future event with reference to a past action.

This pattern is very often used with the verbs direpensarecredere, immaginare in the passato prossimo or imperfetto form. As you will see in the following sentences, both the actions described happened in the past. 


Speravo che sarebbe venuto a trovarmiI hoped he would come to see me
Anna ha detto che mi avrebbe chiamatoAnna said she would call me
Non credevamo che sarebbe arrivato primoWe didn’t think he would come first

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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