Condizionale is an Italian mood, common to other European languages. It is used to describe uncertain circumstances depending on external conditions.
Condizionale is often considered and studied in relation to the Congiuntivo mood, the Italian conjunctive mood, in building Conditional sentences, in Italian Periodo Ipotetico (click on the link). Despite the name, Italian Condizionale and English Conditional are very different. There is no Conditional mood in English, so if you are an English native speaker you have to learn it form scratch. Good for you!
Like most Italian moods, Condizionale has conjugations: Infinitive -are and -ere decline using the same suffixes, -ire changes slightly.
Condizionale has just two tenses, Presente and Passato.
It is the simplest Condizionale, describing events subject to a condition:
- Al ristorante, mangerei volentieri del pesce. I would eat some fish at the condition we go to the restaurant
Sometimes the condition is implicit or so unrealistic it allows the use of Condizionale with no additional explanation:
- Vivrei in Brasile , I would love to live in Brasil but at the moment, for any reason, I do not live there.
In Conditional sentences, the Italian Periodo Ipotetico, the condition is expressed in a subordinate clause, often with a Congiuntivo tense, whilst the Condizionale is the independent clause in the period, meaning that the it could stand by itself.
- Se avessi un milione di euro, comprerei una casa – If I had a million I’d buy a house. I can just say Comprerei una casa and the sentence would be complete
- Se fossi in te non lo farei – If I were you, I wouldn’t do that. I can just say Non lo farei and the sentence could make sense by itself
Condizionale presente is used also to express a desire politely, softening the tone of an order or make a suggestion
- Vorrei una pizza – instead of – Voglio una pizza
- Dovresti dimagrire – instead of – Devi dimagrire
Condizionale presente is also used to describe unconfirmed news or facts
- Secondo i sondaggi, il nuovo presidente sarebbe il Sig. Bianchi
It is the compound tense of the Condizionale mood. As shown in the table above, it is composed by the Condizionale Presente of essere or avere and Participio Passato.
It describes hypothetical situations that could have happened in the past and how the result of such situations would have changed following a different condition.
- Al ristorante, mangerei volentieri del pesce.
- Al ristorante avrei mangiato volentieri del pesce
The first sentence describes what I could do, the second what I could have done, but I did not do.
Of course, being just speculation on possible past scenario’s, this tense is used in Conditional sentences called Periodo ipotetico della impossibilità, or irrealtà, since it describes something that could have happened if there were the appropriate conditions. We can then use Condizionale passato and Congiuntivo trapassato, where, again, Congiuntivo tense is used in a subordinate clause, whilst the Condizionale is the independent clause in the period.
- Al ristorante avrei mangiato volentieri del pesce (se lo avessero avuto)
So they didn’t have any fish unfortunately…
The Condizionale passato has the same functions of the Condizionale presente tense transposed in a past time frame. The passato tense can be then used to describe unconfirmed news or facts taking place in the past.
- Durante la rapina di ieri, i ladri avrebbero rubato 100.000 euro
The news are unconfirmed, so we cautiously suppose what happened.
We hope this brief explanation of the Italian Condizionale tense was useful. We will go in detail with some more examples with the Periodo Ipotetico.
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Please take some time for solving this quiz about the Condizionale tense