Conditional Tense

Grammar Glossary for Spanish Students

pupusas for lesson on the conditional tense
Si haces pupusas, las comería. (If you make pupusas, I would eat them.). Photo by Ceasol; licensed via Creative Commons

Definition

The verb tense that is used to indicate that an action or state of being is dependent on the occurrence of a condition.

Also Known As

This tense in Spanish is also known as the futuro hipotético, tiempo potencial or tiempo condicional in Spanish.

Explanation

In the sentence "Si lo encuentro, sería un milagro" (If I find it, it would be a miracle), the first part of the sentence ("Si lo encuentro" or "If I find it") is the condition.

"Sería and "would be" are in the conditional tense because whether they refer to an actual occurrence depends on whether the condition is true.

In both English and Spanish, the condition does not need to be explicitly stated. In the sentence "Yo lo comería" ("I would eat it"), the condition is not stated but is implied by the context. For example, the condition might be something like "Si lo veo" (If I see it) or "Si lo cocinas" (If you cook it).

In English, the conditional tense is formed using the auxiliary verb "would" before the base verb," although "would" also has other uses.

In Spanish, the conditional tense for regular verbs is formed by adding the following endings (in boldface) to the infinitive:

  • yo comería (I would eat)
  • tú comerías (you singular would eat)
  • él/ella comería (he/she/it would eat)
  • nosotros/nosotras comeríamos (we would eat)
  • vosotros/vosotras comeríais (you plural would eat)
  • ellos/ellas comerían (they would eat)

In Spanish, the conditional tense has historical ties to the future tense and is often known as the hypothetical future tense. The ties between the two tenses can be seen in their formation from the infinitive rather than the verb stem. Also, if the future tense of a verb is formed irregularly, the conditional is usually irregular in the same way.

For example, "I would want" is querría in the conditional and querré in the future.

The conditional perfect tense is formed by using the conditional of haber with a past participle. This compound tense is shown in the final two examples below.

Examples of the Conditional Tense

These sentences show how the conditional tense is used:

  • Sería una sorpresa. (It would be a surprise.)
  • Si pudieras jugar, ¿estarías feliz? (If you were able to play, would you be happy?)
  • Si fuera posible, me gustaría verte. (If it were possible, I'd like to see you.
  • Llegamos a pensar que nunca volveríamos a grabar una nueva canción. (We concluded that we would never again record a new song. Note that the English translation here isn't a literal one.)
  • Creo que te habrían escuchado. (I believe they would have listened to you.)
  • Si no te hubiera conocido, mi vida habría sido diferente. (If I had not met you, my life would have been different.)
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Erichsen, Gerald. "Conditional Tense." ThoughtCo, May. 31, 2017, thoughtco.com/conditional-tense-in-spanish-3078321. Erichsen, Gerald. (2017, May 31). Conditional Tense. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/conditional-tense-in-spanish-3078321 Erichsen, Gerald. "Conditional Tense." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/conditional-tense-in-spanish-3078321 (accessed December 13, 2017).