Periodo ipotetico – Italian Conditional Sentences

The Italian periodo ipotetico, is used to express a hypothetical situation and its consequences

This is a very basic introduction to the Italian Periodo ipotetico.Please have a look at the congiuntivo and condizionale if you are not familiar with those grammar points.

The concept of periodo ipotetico is similar to the English conditional sentences. The main clause, called apodosi, (you don’t need to remember that) describes the consequences of the possible action in the dependent clause, called protasi (another word you can happily forget about).

  • Se piove (premise), —> non andiamo in spiaggia (consequence).

That’s the simplest type of periodo ipotetico.

If the weather will be bad, we won’t go to the beach. We use the indicativo, because we are sure about the situation / outcome scenario.

There are three different types of Italian Conditional Sentences


If the outcome, given the circumstances, is  REAL we talk about periodo ipotetico della realtà.

  • Se mangi solo verdura, dimagrisci.
  • Se avrai sonno mentre guidi, fermati.
  • Se hai bevuto troppo, ti accompagnerò a casa.

All the sentences begin with Se, (if).

We can swap main and subordinate clauses and obtain the same result: Fermati se avrai sonno mentre guidi. 

In this first type of conditional sentences, we can use the indicativo mood, presente, passato and futuro, sometimes in combination with the imperativo (2nd example). The action is going to happen for sure or it is likely to happen given the right circumstances.

The “formula” for this first periodo ipotetico is

Se indicativo presente / futuro (dependent) + indicativo or imperativo (main).


If the premise is not realistic at the moment, the outcome will be more vaguely possible. We talk about periodo ipotetico della possibilità.

  • Se avessi dei soldi, comprerei una bella casa.
  • Se vendessi la mia macchina userei l’autobus.
  • Se potessi, ti presterei dei soldi.

If I had the money, I’d buy a nice house. It means that I don’t have money, however…

The “formula” for this second periodo ipotetico is

→ se + congiuntivo imperfetto (dependent) + condizionale presente (main)

Please note that the 2 tenses are not interchangeable, I cant’s use the condizionale in the dependent clause or the congiuntivo in the main clause

  • Se potrei ti presterei dei soldi
  • Se potessi ti prestassi dei soldi

They are both wrong.

Impossibilità (or Irrealtà)

If the action, given the circumstances is impossible or not realistic, we talk about periodo ipotetico dell’irrealtà. The premise is in the past and did not happen, the outcome is pure speculation.

  1. Se non avessi mangiato quattro pizze, adesso non avrei il mal di pancia.
  2. Se fossi andato all’università, adesso forse avrei un bel lavoro.
  3. Se mi fossi svegliato in tempo, non sarei arrivato in ritardo.

All the events causing the condition in the main clause are in the past. The whole period is a representation of an alternative past, so it’s not real.  We can’t change the past. But, what if…

The “formula” for this periodo ipotetico is

→ se + congiuntivo trapassato (dependent)condizionale presente (main) – Examples 1 & 2

  • The hypothetical action in the past could have had consequences on the present.

→ se + congiuntivo trapassato (dependent) + condizionale passato (main) – Example 3

  • The hypothetical action in the past could have had consequences on the past.

In spoken Italian, there is a tendency to simplify the periodo ipotetico della impossibilità using the imperfetto. 

  • Se mi fossi svegliato in tempo, non sarei arrivato in ritardo. → Se mi svegliavo in tempo non arrivavo in ritardo.

This is quite common in informal spoken Italian and it is acceptable. Of course, many teachers are against this simplification but, as a matter of fact, Italians use it a lot and it’s already encoded in textbooks. I’m totally fine with that.

Again, this is a simplification. Book a free trial class if you want learn more.

Please solve the quiz.


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Milanese, graduated in Italian literature a long time ago, I began teaching Italian online in Japan back in 2003. I usually spend winter in Tokyo and go back to Italy when the cherry blossoms shed their petals. I do not use social media.

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