The Conditional in Spanish

Some linguists and Spanish teachers call the conditional a different tense, others a different mood. I would have to agree. If the imperativeused for commandsis considered a different mood, why shouldn’t the conditional? I consider the conditional to be a different mood, as compared to the other Spanish moods: indicative, subjunctive, and the imperative. 

Generally, language instructors teach the future tense before they teach the conditional. This is done for two reasons 1. The future is lot more straightforward than the conditional 2. You conjugate the conditional with the same root as the future. This includes irregular verbs. 

Before we delve into the uses of the conditional, let’s look at how you conjugate the future and the conditional. If you haven’t read the article on the future tense, please be sure to do so. 

Conjugating the future

To conjugate the future tense, simply keep the entire verb and add the following for each subject pronoun: 

Yo

-ás

Él’ella/usted

Nosotros/as -emos 

Vosotros/as -éis 

Ellos/ellas/Uds. -án

Conjugating the conditional

As with the future tense, keep the root and add the following endings:

Yo -ía 

-ías

Él/ella/usted -ía

Nosotros/as -íamos

Vosotros/as -íais

Ellos/ellas/Uds. -ían

Irregular verbs

All irregular verbs in the future tense are also irregular in the conditional mood. Use the same root as the future and add the conditional ending. I chose to conjugate the following verbs in first person singular/third person singular. As you might’ve noticed above, these two subject pronouns use the same conjugation in the conditional. 

caber – to fit – cabría

decir – to say – diría

haber – there is, there are – habría

hacer – to do – haría

querer -to want, to love – querría

poder – can, be able to – podría

poner – to put – pondría

saber – to know – sabría

salir – to go out – saldría

tener – to have – tendría

valer – to be worth, to cost – valdría

venir – to come – vendría

Uses of the conditional

The conditional has three main uses, which I have labelled  with the acronym DÍA, as in “day.” 

Desire

Imaginary situations

Advice/opinion

  • Desire. For this, you will often use the verb gustar. Make it your best friend :). 

Me gustaría ser doctor cuando sea grande – I’d like to be a doctor when I grow up. 

  • Imaginary situations.  Many of these phrases  go with  the subjunctive mood, but in the past tense.

Trabajaría en esa empresa. Es grande y  ofrece buenos beneficios – I’d work at that company. It is large and offers good benefits. 

With the subjunctive: Si me hicieran una oferta, trabajaría en esa empresa. Es grande y ofrece buenos beneficios – If they made me an offer, I’d work at that company. It is large and offers good benefits. 

  • Advice/opinion. If you are giving advice to someone, you can always use the indicative, but the conditional often makes it more polite. These verbs will be particularly useful: poder, deber,  and tener

Indicative: Tienes que trabajar menos – You have to work less.

Conditional: Podrías trabajar menos – You could work less.

When expressing your opinions about a situation, you can also use the conditional. 

El gobierno debería enfocarse más en el bien de la gente y no en sus propios intereses- The government should focus more on the good of the people and not on its own interests. 

Exercises with the conditional, part I

Now that you know and understand the different uses of the conditional in Spanish, please identify whether the following sentences are referring to a desire, an imaginary situation, advice, or an opinion. 

  • Podrías hacer los deberes más tarde si quieres – You could do the homework later, if you want to. 
  1. A mis padres les encantaría que yo los visite este fin de semana, pero no puedo – My parents would love me to visit them this weekend, but I can’t.
  2. Dices que quieres estar en forma. Entonces deberías hacer más ejercicio – You say you want to be in shape. Then you should exercise more. 
  3. ¿Qué dices? Mi novio nunca haría eso. ¡Diós mío! – What are you saying? My boyfriend would never do that. Gosh! 
  4. Si fuera rico, les daría mucho dinero a los pobres – If I were rich, I’d give plenty of money to the poor. 

Answers: 1. Opinion/advice; 2. Desire; 3. Opinion/advice (sometimes unsolicited); 4. Imaginary situations; 5. Imaginary situations

Exercises with the conditional, part II

Please choose the correct option between indicative and conditional. Try not  to look at the translation. 

  1. Él le __________ (compro / compraría) un coche, pero no gana suficiente – He’d  buy her a car, but he doesn’t earn enough. 
  2. Un estudiante __________ (hace / haría) la tarea cuando la materia es importante para él – A student does the homework when the subject is important to him ;). 
  3. Nunca __________ (vivir / viviría ) en Japón. Es una cultura muy diferente a la mía – I’d never live in Japan. The culture is too far from my own.  
  4. Si fuera presidente, __________ (bajar / bajaría) los impuestos para la clase media – If I were president, I’d lower the taxes for the middle class. 
  5. ¡Los niños __________ (quieren / querrían) demasiados regalos para el Día de los Reyes! – The kids want too many presents for Three Kings’Day! 
  6. A la gente le __________ (gusta / gustaría) que su presidente los escuchara – The people would like it if the president listened to them.
  7. A la gente le __________ (gusta / gustaría ) que  la escuchen. 
  8. Es un mujer muy complicada. Aún si tuviera todo el oro del mundo no  __________ (es / sería) feliz – She is a very complicated woman. Even if she had all the gold in the world, she would not be happy. 
  9. Vosotros __________ (sois, seríais) personas muy amables. Gracias por vuestra ayuda – You are very kind people. Thank you for your help. 
  10. ¿Qué te pasa? __________ (puedes / podrías) poner un poco de tu parte , ¿no te parece? – What is with you? You could make a little effort, don’t you think? 
  1.  

Answers: 1. compraría ; 2. hace; 3. viviría; 4. bajaría; 5. quieren; 6. gustaría; 7. gusta;  8.  sería; 9. sois;  10. podrías

 

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