The present conditional tense in Italian is equivalent to ‘would + verb’ in English. For example, I would like to go to Italy tomorrow - Vorrei andare in Italia domani. It can also be translated as ‘could’, ‘should’, ‘ought to’, ‘might’ or ‘may’.

You can use the conditional tense to express the following:

-  a desire, intention or preference

-  I would like to eat now - Vorrei mangiare ora

-  a polite request 

- Would you give me a lift? - Mi daresti un passaggio?

-  advice

- If I were in your place I would write a letter - Al posto tuo, io scriverei una lettera

- You should work! - Dovresti lavorare!

-  a possibility

- It might be fun - Potrebbe essere divertente

There are some grammar rules to follow in order to form the conditional tense. For verbs ending in -are, you need to change the infinitive ending -are into -er to obtain the root. Then you add the conditional endings.

For -ere and -ire verbs you just drop the final -e of the infinitive to make the root and then add the conditional endings.

The conditional endings are:

io / -ei 

tu / -esti

lui / lei -ebbe

noi / -emmo

voi / -este

loro / -ebbero

See some full verb tables below:

 

PARLARE

CREDERE             SENTIRE

io

parlerei

crederei

sentirei

tu

parleresti

crederesti

sentiresti

lui, lei, Lei

parlerebbe

crederebbe

sentirebbe

noi

parleremmo

crederemmo

sentiremmo

voi

parlereste

credereste

sentireste

loro

parlerebbero

crederebbero

sentirebbero

There are some irregular verbs to be aware of the in the conditional tense. Dare, stare, fare and dire drop the final -e of their infinitives and form the stems dar-, star-, far-and dir-respectively. The stem of essere is sar-. These stems are then combined with the regular conditional-tense endings. For example: 

-  Io ti darei un biscotto ma sono tutti finiti - I would give you a biscuit but they are all gone

- Potresti dire la verità per favore? - Could you tell the truth please?

The verbs listed below also have an irregularly shortened stem in the conditional tense (usually, because the vowel ‘a’or ‘e’is dropped from the infinitive).

Irregular conditional tense stems:

andare                andr-

avere                   avr-

bere                     berr-

cadere                 cadr-

dovere                 dovr-

potere                  potr-

sapere                 sapr-

vedere                 vedr-

vivere                  vivr-

venire                  verr-

volere                  vorr-

If you’re writing the conditional tense, keep an eye out for the spelling of verbs. Those with infinitives ending in -ciareand -giaredrop the ‘i’before adding the conditional endings to the root. For example:

-  Tu cominceresti domani - You would start tomorrow

-  Noi viaggeremmo volentieri - We would happily travel

Verbs with infinitives ending in -careand -gareadd an‘h’to the root for the conditional to preserve the hard sound of the ‘c’or ‘g’of the infinitive:

-  Io cerchererei ma non ho tempo - I would look but I don’t have time

-   Loro pagherebbero ma non hanno soldi - They would pay but they don’t have any money

Here are more conditional sentences using some of the irregular verbs above:

Vorrei una pizza - I would like a pizza

Mi daresti il biglietto per l’autobus? - Would you give me a ticket for the bus?

Mi spiegherete le regole? - Would you explain the rules?

Noi verremmo volentieri- We would happily come

Potrei avere un bicchiere d’acqua? - Could I have a glass of water?

Loro vorrebbero andare - They would like to go

 

Here is a conditional tense exercise for you to try. Put the word in brackets in the conditional tense:

Io ________________ mangiare le pesche. (preferire)

 

Che cosa ti ________________ fare? (piacere)

 

Ho sete, io ______________________________ (bere) volentieri un succo di frutta.

 

Noi ________________cercare subito una nuova macchina. (dovere)

 

Loro ________________ noleggiare una barca. (volere)

 

Io ______________________________ (chiamare) volentieri Paola

 

________________ darmi l'orario dei treni per andare a Milano? (potere)

 

Ho fame, io ______________________________ (mangiare) volentieri una pizza.

 

Le ragazze ________________, ma non ricordano le parole. (cantare)

 

Sofia ________________ francese, m non ha studiato molto. (parlare)

 

Gli studenti ________________ i corsi tutte le sere. (frequentare)

 

Carla ha bisogno di rilassarsi, ______________________________ (fare) volentieri un viaggio al mare. 

 

Domani è sabato, tu ______________________________ (potere) dormire fino a tardi!