An Italian learning tip before we start: Italian conditionals are for more advanced learners.
If you're a beginner you can, of course, benefit from looking at conditional forms so you can recognise them being used.
But to use these correctly yourself, you’ve got to be familiar with a host of other things first, like Italian verb conjugation and tenses.
If you're at the beginning of your language learning journey, it’s mostly easier to use simple tenses and ways to express yourself.
Short, basic sentences set in the present can take you a long way in a foreign language, as well as build confidence and a will to keep learning.
But once you’ve got the simple stuff down and feel secure in your level of speech, it’s important to keep forging ahead with the learning. Because there's a whole lot more to get to, like the conditionals I'm going to discuss in this post.
By the way, if you want to learn Italian fast and have fun while doing it, my top recommendation is Italian Uncovered which teaches you through StoryLearning®.
With Italian Uncovered you’ll use my unique StoryLearning® method to learn Italian naturally through story… not rules. It’s as fun as it is effective.
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What Are Italian Conditionals?
If your goal is to be fluent in Italian, one part of that is learning how to talk about possibilities, or to express a desire. For pizza, to name just one example. So that’s what this article is going to be about: the exciting world of hypotheticals.
Luckily, there are only two tenses to contend with, in this case: past and present. Here, I'll focus on the present tense of condizionali to get you started.
So, conditionals. They can, as said, be used for the following: to express a possibility, a wish, desire or doubt. But also to give or to ask for advice, or as a more polite way to make a request. So generally, things were there is some sort of uncertainty involved.
The present conditional in Italian is basically the equivalent of the word “would” and a verb — as in “would it be possible,” “I would love to” or “would you please help?” or “should” or “could” In English.
While not quite as simple as that, forming the condizionale presente in Italian is not too tough, either. You’ve just got to take the ending of a verb and adapt it, just like you’ve learned to do for the past tense.
How To Form Italian Conditionals
Just like with the present and the future tenses, you create the conditional by adding endings to the verb stem, or the part that’s left when you cut off –are, -ere or –ire.
This way, you can use the conditional of any Italian verb to say what would, could, or should happen.
- Lui farebbe finta di niente. (He would pretend like it’s nothing.)
Let’s look at an example of what the conditional looks like, in the case of prendere (to take), in all its possible forms of the present:
|io prendo – prenderei||I take – I would [like to] take|
|tu prendi – prenderesti||you take – you would take|
|lui/lei/Lei prende – prenderebbe||he/she/You (formal) take – h/s/Y would take|
|noi prendiamo – prenderemmo||we take – we would take|
|voi – prendete – prendereste||you (plural) take – you would take|
|loro prendono – prenderebbero||they take – they would take|
If that looks like a whole complicated jumble of extra letters added to the end, don’t worry — the conditional is pretty easy to get right, with a little practice.
Some rules to start with: to make conditional forms out of regular verbs that end with -are and –ere, like in the example above, you switch those endings out for
- -erei, -eresti, -erebbe, -eremmo, -ereste and -erebbero.
To make conditionals out of regular verbs that end in -ire, you switch instead to
- -irei, -iresti, -irebbe, -iremmo, -ireste and -irebbero.
Conditionals With -Are Verbs
Here are some practical examples on what that looks like, in a verb that ends with -are:
andare (to go)
- io andrei (I would go)
- tu andresti (you would go)
- lui/lei/Lei andrebbe (he/she/You would go)
- noi andremmo (we would go)
- voi andreste (you (pl.) would go)
- loro andrebbero (they would go)
Conditionals With-Ere Verbs
dovere (to have to)
- io dovrei (I would have to)
- tu dovresti (you would have to)
- lui/lei/Lei dovrebbe (he/she/You would have to)
- noi dovremmo (we would have to)
- voi dovreste (you would have to)
- loro dovrebbero (they would have to)
Conditionals With-Ire Verbs
partire (to leave)
- io partirei (I would leave)
- tu partiresti (you would leave)
- lui/lei/Lei partirebbe (he/she/You would leave)
- noi partiremmo (we would leave)
- voi partireste (you would leave)
- loro partirebbero (they would leave)
Irregular Italian Conditionals
Of course, since the simplest, most essential verbs tend to be irregular in Italian for some reason, the conditional will be irregular, as well.
Let’s look at some of the classics, like avere (to have):
|io avrei||I would have|
|tu avresti||you would have|
|lui/lei/lei avrebbe||he/she/You would have|
|noi avremmo||we would have|
|voi avreste||you would have|
|loro avrebbero||they would have|
Or essere (to be):
|io sarei||I would be|
|tu saresti||you would be|
|lui/lei/Lei sarebbe||he/she/You would be|
|noi saremmo||we would be|
|voi sareste||you would be|
|loro sarebbero ||they would be|
Other Irregular Conditionals
There are rules, too. Some verbs you’ll come across don’t have a vowel before the r of the conditional extension, so their endings are:
-rei, -resti, -rebbe, -remmo, -reste and –rebbero.
Some examples of this are vivere:
- Perche non vivresti in Germania? (Why wouldn’t you live in Germany?)
- Io non saprei cosa fare. (I wouldn’t know what to do.)
Some verbs have no vowel before the conditional bit, so they change their stem, too, not just the ending. For example rimanere, tenere, or venire.
- Verresti con me, per favore? (Would you come with me, please?)
- Noi ci terremo in contatto. (We will keep in touch.)
In the case of rimanere, it can be used in a different context, like here:
- Non aspettarti niente, e non rimarrai delusa. (Don’t expect anything, and you won’t be left [remain] disappointed.)
Verbs such as mangiare drop the “i” in the future tense, so they drop it in the conditional, as well:
- Mangeresti un po’ di più? (Would you eat a little more?)
Verbs like cercare or pagare, in other words verbs that end in -care, or -gare add an “h” in the future tense, so that there’s an extra “h” in the conditional, too.
- Se sparissi, mi cercheresti? (If I disappeared, would you look for me?)
- Devo dirti che io non lo pagherei. (I’ve got to tell you that I wouldn’t pay him.)
Which Conditional To Use When
Different situations require different conditionals. To talk about desires, you’d use volere, or rather it’s conditional form, vorrei.
You could also use mi piacerebbe, if you were looking to be more polite, or more formal.
- Vorrei mangiare un panino. (I would like to eat a sandwich.)
- Mi piacerebbe andare con te. (I would like [enjoy] to go with you.)
Requests or suggestions call for potere:
- Potresti farmi un piatto di pasta? (Could you make me a plate of pasta?)
- Potremmo andare alla spiaggia. (We could go to the beach.)
Advice (even the kind you give yourself) should be packaged in the conditional form of dovere, as in:
- Secondo me, dovresti lasciarla immediatamente. (I think you should leave her immediately.)
- Lo so, dovrei andare in palestra. (I know, I should go to the gym.)
And an activity that would be possible were it not for your mother-in-law requires andare:
- Andrei a casa se non ci fosse mia suocera… (I would go home if my mother-in-law weren’t there…)
Italian Conditionals: Bringing It All Together
Look, I won’t sugarcoat it: Italian conditionals are quite the story to wrap your head around.
But rules aren’t endless or (completely) illogical, so that there is an end in sight. And the day when you can dole out advice or ask for things left and right is nearer than it may seem.
So don't let the grammar villain put you off. And in the meantime, be on the lookout for Italian conditionals whenever you listen to Italian podcasts, watch Italian YouTube channels, or read books in Italian.