Forming the Conditional Tense in Spanish

Forming the Conditional Tense in Spanish
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  • 0:04 Introduction
  • 4:20 Using Conditional
  • 6:00 Practice
  • 7:36 Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Chris Travis
This lesson covers how to conjugate verbs in the conditional tense in Spanish for both the regular and irregular verb forms and explains its two most common uses.

Conditional Tense in Spanish

Welcome to the conditional tense! If I tried to predict the future, I might say Yo sé que te gustará. I know that you will like it. Hopefully, at the end of the lesson, I can look back and put this in the past tense: Yo sabía que te gustaría. I knew that you would like it. In order to produce that sentence, I will need the conditional tense - in this case, the conditional form of gustar (to please), gustaría.

In Spanish, the conditional tense functions exactly like it does almost word-for-word in English. It is the equivalent of the English word 'would' plus the verb: would + verb. 'He would eat the food.' 'She would go to the party.' 'I would return the book.' We're not talking about past habits, such as 'I would always wake up at seven o'clock.' That would require the imperfect past tense. We're looking for what someone would do under certain conditions.

To form the conditional, we start with the basic infinitive and simply add the endings:

  • ía
  • ías
  • ía
  • íamos
  • íais
  • ían

While this might remind students of the imperfect tense, notice that we do not cut off any part of the infinitive when forming the conditional. So, for comer the imperfect tense would be comía, comías, comía, etc. The conditional, however, is a longer verb because we start with the entire infinitive:

  • comería
  • comerías
  • comería
  • comeríamos
  • comeríais
  • comerían

Let's look at some more regular verbs from the -AR, -ER, and -IR categories:

  • Hablar (to speak): hablaría, hablarías, hablaría, hablaríamos, hablaríais, hablarían

Continuing with just the yo and the ellos forms, we have:

  • Beber (to drink): bebería, beberían
  • Recibir (to receive): recibiría, recibirían
  • Nadar (to swim): nadaría, nadarían
  • Practicar (to practice): practicaría, practicarían

So, how do we say 'We would receive?' Please say it with me: Nosotros recibiríamos. How do we say 'You would swim?' Tú nadarías. 'I would practice.' Yo practicaría.

Now, what about those verbos irregulares? Well, I mentioned that the conditional has a connection with the future tense. They also happen to have the exact same irregular verbs with the same irregular stems. These include:

  • venir
  • salir
  • tener
  • hacer
  • decir
  • poner

among others.

You also might notice that these are the same verbs that often end in 'go' in the yo form of the present tense. Yo (present tense):

  • vengo
  • salgo
  • tengo
  • hago
  • digo
  • pongo

Or maybe you're pretty good at your irregular commands:

  • ven
  • sal
  • ten
  • haz
  • di
  • pon

Hmmm, very interesting. So, these verbs tend to group together. Hopefully that makes things a bit easier.

But back to the conditional and the future. Let's fill in a quick table of irregulars. We'll use the yo form, but since it is only the stem that is irregular, you need not worry about the other forms. They follow suit. So, venir:

  • vendría
  • vendrías
  • vendría
  • vendríamos
  • vendríais
  • vendrían

In the yo form of the future, we would have vendré.

  • Salir (to go, leave), in the future: saldré, conditional: saldría
  • Tener (to have), tendré, tendría
  • Hacer (to do, to make), haré, haría
  • Decir (to say, to tell), diré, diría
  • Poner (to put), pondré, pondría

Okay, so that's a quick look at the some of the irregulars. Any related verbs formed using these same verbs (like obtener, to obtain, or imponer, to impose) will work in a similar way:

  • obtendré
  • obtendría
  • impondré
  • impondría

How to Use the Conditional Tense

So, when do we use this tense, and why does it seem to have so much in common with the future tense? Well, we might think of the conditional tense as the future when looked at from the perspective of the past. In other words, instead of saying 'He tells me that he will leave at 9:00,' which requires the future (saldrá), what if we were talking about something in the past? 'He told me that he would leave at 9:00.' Now we would need the conditional, saldría (he would leave), and not the future.

In the following activity, let's choose from a bank of all sorts of different verbs: fue, fueron, irían, vendrían, vendríamos, traerán, traerían, bailamos, bailarían, bailarías, hacer, cantar.

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