Using the Conditional Tense in Spanish

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  • 0:02 The Conditional Tense
  • 0:49 Conjugation in the Conditional
  • 4:54 Irregular Verbs in the…
  • 8:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Pablo Serna

Pablo has taught college Spanish at the University of Missouri and Central Methodist University, and has a master's degree in Spanish literature.

In this lesson, you will learn how to conjugate and use the conditional tense in Spanish when talking about what you would do or what would happen in certain circumstances.

The Conditional Tense in Spanish

?Qué comprarías con un millón de dólares? (What would you buy with a million dollars)?

To answer that question, in Spanish and English, we would need to use the conditional tense. What you would do or what would happen under certain events or circumstances is described using the conditional tense. The conditional tense in Spanish, just like the future tense, is one of the easiest tenses because all conjugations - yo, , él/ella/usted, nosotros, vosotros, ustedes, and ellos - are the same for -AR, -ER, and -IR verbs, and regular and irregular verbs.

Conjugation of the Verb in the Conditional Tense

A difference between English and Spanish when using the conditional tense is that in English you would need... exactly! You (a subject) + would (auxiliary verb) + verb. In Spanish, on the other hand, the conjugation for the conditional tense is only one word that, generally speaking, uses the infinitive form of the verb + the endings.

Yo Él/ella/usted Nosotros Vosotros Ustedes Ellos
-ía -ías -ía -íamos -íais -ían -ían

So, let's answer the question from the beginning: ?Qué comprarías con un millón de dólares?

  1. Yo compraría un carro nuevo (I would buy a new car).
  2. Mi esposa y yo compraríamos una casa con tres habitaciones y dos baños (My wife and I would buy a house with three bedrooms and two bathrooms).
  3. Mis hijos irían a Hawaii. Volarían en avión (My children would go to Hawaii. They would fly by airplane).

Also, the conditional tense uses the same endings the imperfect tense uses for -ER and -IR verbs. The difference in conjugation is that for the conditional tense we will use the whole infinitive of the verb. For example: the imperfect tense of comer is comía, but the conditional tense of the same verb is comería. These are the conjugations for -AR, -ER, and -IR verbs in the conditional:

Sujeto\Verbo Bailar Comer 'Vivir
'Yo Bailaría Comería Viviría
Bailarías Comerías Vivirías
él/ella/usted Bailaría Comería Viviría
Nosotros Bailaríamos Comeríamo Viviríamos
Vosotros Bailaríais Comeríais Viviríais
Ustedes Bailarían Comerían Vivirían
Ellos Bailarían Comerían Vivirían

Another difference between the conjugation of the conditional tense and the future tense is that all conjugations for the conditional have accent marks, including the nosotros form. Let's try with some sentences:

  1. Me sorprendería (I would be surprised or shocked), or llamaría al 9-1-1 (I would call 9-1-1), or lloraría (I would cry).
  2. Pretendería estar muerto (I would play dead), or le daría miel (I would give him honey), or lo abrazaría (I would give him a hug).
  3. Lanzaría un salvavidas (I would throw a lifesaver), or la rescataría (I would rescue her), or miraría hacia otro lado (I would look away - no judging).

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