Conditional Mood

Italian conditional
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Il condizionale

In English, we use the modal "would" plus a verb to talk about actions that may or may not take place, usually depending on whether a certain condition is met. The Italian equivalent to this construction is a conditional mood with a full set of conjugations for every verb. The uses of these two constructions are very similar.

Se clauses

The most common use of the Italian conditional is in the result (then) clause of conditional sentences (aka se clauses or periodi ipotetici), which describe what would happen if some condition were met.

Per esempio…

Ti chiamerei se avessi delle novità /
Se avessi delle novità, ti chiamerei.
  I would call you if I had any news /
If I had any news, I would call you.
Passeresti l’esame se studiassi /
Se studiassi, passeresti l’esame.
  You would pass the test if you studied /
If you studied, you would pass the test.

 Though the Italian conditional is generally considered equivalent to “would,” this is not always the case. See the note in the Habitual section of the imperfect lesson.

Polite requests

Potere (can, to be able) makes requests or suggestions more politely than the imperative.

Per esempio…

Potreste aiutarmi?   Could you help me?
Potrebbe chiudere la finestra?   Could you close the window?

Advice

Dovere, which usually means "must, to have to," is softened to "should" in the conditional.

Per esempio…

Dovresti tornare a scuola.   You should go back to school.
Dovremmo mangiare ora.   We should eat now.

Wishful thinking

Volere (to want) can be used in the conditional to express a desire or to make a request.

Per esempio…

Vorrei andare con voi.   I would like to go with you.
Vorremmo ordinare ora.   We’d like to order now.

Another verb for expressing desire is the reflexive verb piacersi (to like).

Per esempio…

Mi piacerebbe vedere un film, ma devo studiare.   I’d like to see a movie, but I have to study.
Ci piacerebbe essere lì con voi.   We’d like to be there with you, We wish we could be there with you.

 Related lessons

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Italian conditional mood

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