Find Love, and More: The Essential Guide to the Spanish Conditional Tenses
Do you believe in love?
I hope so, because this is going to be a very romantic post…
Jokes aside, the Spanish conditional tense is very useful in many different kinds of situations, and one of them is indeed talking about love.
If you are still in doubt, then let’s get started by taking a look together.
- The Spanish Conditional Tense in Action
- Conjugating the Spanish Conditional Tense
- Conjugating the Spanish Conditional Perfect Tense
- Uses of the Spanish Simple Conditional Tense
- When to Use the Spanish Conditional Perfect Tense
The Spanish Conditional Tense in Action
Do you remember our friend Michael? Last time we heard about him, he was dealing with the prepositions por and para (and, to be honest, he was doing pretty well).
Since then, not only has he learned how and when to use those powerful little words, but thanks to Maite he has also been able to overcome his fear of the past tenses and Spanish sentence structure.
Last weekend I went to Madrid for a visit, and this is the conversation I witnessed between those two love birds:
Michael: Me gustaría casarme contigo. (I would like to marry you.)
Maite: Eso sería genial, pero antes deberíamos ahorrar un poco de dinero. (That would be great, but you should save some money first.)
Michael: Si tuviera más dinero, nos casaríamos ahora mismo. (If I had more money we would get married right away.)
Maite: ¡Me encantaría! (I would love that!)
Michael: Si hubiera sabido que te hacía tan feliz, habría empezado a ahorrar antes… (If I had known it will make you so happy, I would have started saving before…)
Apart from realizing that they are both very romantic, I also realized that they were mostly using the conditional tenses during their conversation. Did you see it? If not, keep on reading this post, and afterwards you can go back to their dialogue and look closely at the verbs—you’ll surely spot the conditional then!
The conditional tenses have many different uses, as we will see later, but one of the most important is talking about hypothesis and situations that have yet to happen.
In this case, we have some wedding plans that aren’t yet real because the topic has just come up for the first time.
The conditional tenses tend to frighten Spanish learners at the start, since they’re not part of the “main” Spanish verb tenses (i.e. present tense, preterite, imperfect and simple future). However, any time I explain them to my students, I always get the same reaction: They’re quite easy, they have well-defined uses and they have a very simple conjugation.
So do not despair if you’ve never studied the Spanish conditional tenses before. With the help of this post, you will learn how to conjugate the tense, how to use it correctly, and—why not—that it’s not only very handy, but also enjoyable to use. You might just even fall in love with the tense.
The FluentU language learning program can also help you fall in love with Spanish as a whole by introducing you to a library of authentic content in which speakers use the conditional and other tenses in a natural, everyday way. You can use the program’s interactive subtitles, multimedia flashcards and adaptive quizzes to learn and retain how to use the conditional tense in context.
In the meantime, though, let’s have a look at the conjugation of the conditional tenses.
Conjugating the Spanish Conditional Tense
Spanish has two different conditional tenses, the simple conditional (el condicional simple) and the conditional perfect (el condicional compuesto). For those of you out there starting to shake, I must tell you they are very student-friendly, and their conjugation is really simple—so stay with me.
Let’s start with the simple conditional, which is what most people actually mean when they say the “conditional” tense.
There are two things for you to bear in mind when conjugating the conditional tense:
- All three verb types (-AR/-ER/-IR) have the same endings. Yay!
- You add the endings to the infinitive. Double yay!
Feeling better now? The simple conditional tense is very similar to the simple future tense because they both follow these two rules. Besides, as you will see later, they are so similar that they even have the same irregular verbs, and with the same irregularities!
But before we enter the “Realm of Irregularities,” let’s have a look at the conjugation of the regular verbs.
Regular Spanish Verbs in the Conditional Tense
-AR Verbs: Cantar (to sing)
-ER Verbs: Comer (to eat)
-IR Verbs: Vivir (to live)
Easy, isn’t it? One single set of endings added to the infinitive. It cannot get any simpler!
Notice the accent mark over the í in all the persons—singular and plural. Don’t forget to add it!
Irregular Spanish Verbs in the Conditional Tense
When it comes to irregular verbs, the list is very, very short, and they are verbs we use every day, so the best solution is to learn their irregularities by heart.
It’s just the stem that slightly changes, so rather than using the infinitive, you’ll use the bolded stems listed below:
- salir saldr- (to leave/go out)
- tenir tendr– (to have)
- valer valdr– (to cost/be worth)
- querer querr– (to want/love)
- decir dir– (to say/tell)
- hacer har– (to do/make)
- poner pondr– (to put/place)
- venir vendr– (to come)
- caber cabr– (to fit)
- haber habr– (have)
- saber sabr– (to know)
As an example, here you have the verb haber fully conjugated in the simple conditional. The good news is that the endings are exactly the same as above, so you only need to learn them once.
The second Spanish conditional tense is the conditional perfect. I am going to repeat the same words in here: This tense is very easy!
Conjugating the Spanish Conditional Perfect Tense
The conditional perfect is formed by the simple conditional of the verb haber (yeah, the one I just conjugated above) and the past participle of the main verb, and it means “would have ~ed.”
I will use the verb amar (to love) as an example:
habría amado habríamos amado
habrías amado habríais amado
habría amado habrían amado
And that’s all! This translates to “would have loved” for each form. Now you know how to conjugate the Spanish conditional tenses.
In the next section you will learn when to use them.
Uses of the Spanish Simple Conditional Tense
The simple conditional has quite a few uses, but that doesn’t mean you will find any difficulties when learning it. Have a look at the following rules, follow them, and you will be a “Conditional Master.”
We use the simple conditional…
1. To express future in the past. Remember the reported speech post? If not, have a look at it now!
Me dijo que se casaría conmigo.
(He told me he would marry me).
Le dije que eso me haría muy feliz.
(I told him that would make me very happy).
2. To speculate about the past.
Se casarían a las 4 de la tarde.
(They must have gotten married at 4 p.m.)
Esa sería la razón por la que se enamoró de ella.
(That must have been the reason he fell in love with her.)
3. To express softening or deference (usually with requests).
Querría ser tu esposo.
(I would like to be your husband.)
Me encantaría pasar un fin de semana romántico en Barcelona.
(I would love to spend a romantic weekend in Barcelona.)
4. To indicate a present or future hypothesis, or what would happen if there weren’t any obstacles at the moment of speaking.
Me casaría contigo pero antes debo ahorrar.
(I would marry you, but I have to save some money first.)
Viajaríamos a París pero no podemos.
(We would travel to Paris but we can’t.)
5. To talk about events which might or might not occur.
Sería romántico casarse en Madrid.
(It would be romantic to get married in Madrid.)
Ser tu esposa sería maravilloso.
(Being your wife would be wonderful.)
6. To ask for advice.
¿Qué harías si te dejara?
(What would you do if he left you?)
¿Qué vestido comprarías para la boda?
(Which dress would you buy for the wedding?)
7. To talk about what would be done in a specific situation.
¿Te casarías con él?
(Would you marry him?)
¿Le dirías la verdad sobre tu pasado?
(Would you tell him the truth about your past?)
Last but not least:
8. We use the simple conditional along with the imperfect subjunctive to form the second conditional. In case you need some review, have a look at this conditionals post.
Si me lo pidiera, me casaría con él.
(If he asked me, I would marry him.)
Si pudiera, le diría la verdad sobre mi pasado.
(If I could, I would tell him the truth about my past.)
When to Use the Spanish Conditional Perfect Tense
When it comes to the uses of the conditional perfect, everything becomes much easier, because we only use it in two situations:
1. To express supposition or the probability of a past situation that has already taken place.
Habría estado muy nervioso cuando le pidió matrimonio.
(He must have been—probably was—very nervous when he asked her to marry him.)
Seguramente habrían perdido el avión a París.
(They had probably missed the plane to Paris.)
2. To talk about actions that would have happened but didn’t. In most cases this use is directly related to the third conditional, so if you need to review that topic, again take a look at this conditionals post.
Si hubiéramos tenido dinero, nos habríamos casado el año pasado.
(If we had had money, we would have gotten married last year.)
Si no te hubiera querido, no me habría casado contigo.
(If I hadn’t loved you, I wouldn’t have married you).
So… are you already convinced that the Spanish conditional tenses are not as frightening as they seem?
Just remember their conjugation and their uses, and you will be able to be as romantic as our friends Michael and Maite.
Needless to say, you can use the conditional for any other purposes you may need, but if you want to be romantic, the conditional is your best friend.
That’s all from me this time. See you soon, and happy learning!