B1 Level. How to Use the Spanish Conditional Tense

Updated: Apr 4, 2020

One of the best things about the Spanish conditional tense is that it is one of the easiest Spanish verb tenses to conjugate. Also known as the simple conditional or condicional simple in Spanish, this tense is easier than other tenses because the conjugations for the regular ‘ar’, ‘er’ and ‘ir’ verbs are all exactly the same.

As the name implies, the conditional is a verb conjugation used when some action is based upon some condition or somehow contingent on something else. This corresponds to the English use of the word "would." For example, "What would you do?" "I would leave immediately." The conditional conjugations closely parallel those of the future tense. Every time you think you could use a word like ‘would’, ‘could’ or ‘should’ in English, it is likely there is a Spanish equivalent. But (naturally, there was a but coming), there are a few situations where English natives typically make mistakes with the Spanish conditional. In this article, you will get an overview of how to form the Spanish conditional tense. You will learn about 5 common options for where and how you can use it.

Regular Conditional Verbs

As with the future tense, we don't need to bother removing the "-ar," "-er," or "-ir" endings when conjugating in the conditional. We use the entire infinitive as our stem. And again, it doesn't matter what kind of verb it is. Every verb uses these endings:

To form the conditional tense with regular verbs, simply add the conditional endings to the end of the infinitive. Below you'll find a table with the Spanish conditional endings, as well as conjugations of three regular verbs in the conditional:

Irregular Conditional Verbs

There are only 12 irregular verbs for the conditional tense in Spanish.

As the Spanish future tense is formed in exactly the same way as the Spanish conditional tense, these 12 irregular verbs apply equally to both tenses.

The 12 irregular verbs for the two tenses and the associated prefix are:

Uses of the simple conditional

When should you use the conditional? In Spanish, the simple conditional is used in the following cases:

Use #1 – To express desires for the future

The conditional expresses potentiality. It is used to express a wish or a suggestion, to make a request, or to accept or extend invitations. It is less direct and more polite than the imperative. The verbs podría, querría, and debería are often found in the conditional to diminish the strength of a command. In most cases, the conditional is translated as meaning would in English. However, podría means I could, debería means I should and querría means I would like.

  • No me gustaría que me dejarás, me gustaría mejor que te casaras conmigo.

I wouldn't like you to leave me, I'd better like you to marry me.

Use #2 – Express politeness

  • ¿Podrías bajarme ese libro? Could you get that book down for me?

  • ¿Te importaría venir conmigo? Would you mind coming with me?

  • ¿Le importaría mover su auto? (formal

Would you mind moving your car?

Use #3 – To offer or give advice

Another common use of the Spanish conditional tense is for giving advice.

There are a few common structures in Spanish that set up the use of this tense for advice, these include:

  • Yo que tú, + condicional simple.

  • Yo en tu lugar, + condicional simple.

  • Yo, + condicional simple.

The translation of these structures into English are all “if I were you, I would …”. You use the conditional tense here because you are a referring to a conditional situation—if you were the other person.

Alternatively, you can use the conditional tense to give advice in a more direct way as follows:

  • Deberías cortarte el pelo You should cut your hair

  • Podrías ponerte el vestido rojo You could wear the red dress

Use #4 – For guessing what might have happened in the past

  • Pensé que suspenderías el examen I thought you would suspend the exam

  • Me prometiste que recogerías tu habitación You promised you would pick up your room

Use #5 - to discuss theories

  • Terminando pronto los deberes podrías jugar más rato con tus amigos If you finished your homework son, you could play with your friends longer

  • Pintando más a menudo mejorarías mucho If you painted more often, you could improve a lot

Possible errors with the conditional tense

A common error with the Spanish conditional tense happens around conditional sentences. Conditional sentences are those that start with the word ‘if’. For example:

If I had more time, I would travel more frequently.

The temptation is to translate this sentence as follows:

Si tengo más tiempo, viajaría más a menudo. 

This isn’t correct. Certainly, if you did say this sentence in this way most Spanish natives would know exactly what you mean. But, you can improve the translation.

Notice the conjugation of ‘have’ in the English sentence—’If I had more time’. It is formed in the past.

Well, the same thing happens in Spanish as well:

Si tuviera más tiempo, viajaría más a menudo.

‘Tuviera’ is actually the imperfect subjunctive tense which is an advanced grammar topic. It is a topic that you should get to eventually but don’t let it distract you. I put it here to show how the conditional is used correctly in Spanish conditional sentences.

The other way to form Spanish conditional sentences is with a conditional statement in the present. For example, starting with the English sentence:

If we leave now, we will arrive on time.

The temptation here, is to translate the sentence to Spanish as follows:

Si salimos ahora, llegaríamos a tiempo. 

Here the use of the conditional Spanish tense is incorrect. It is never used with present conditional sentence. It is better to translate this sentence using the the Spanish future simple tense:

Si salimos ahora, llegaremos a tiempo.

So to summarise this section quickly, never use the conditional tense with a present conditional sentence. And if you do want to use the conditional tense in a condition statement, it has to be paired with the imperfect subjunctive.

Let's practice

Listening Activity No. 1: Video "Hablando": Buenas amigas

In today's video you will see a sketch of two friends that are talking about the recent breakup of one of them with her boyfriend. The objectives of this video are: Review future and conditional forms and give advice using conditional formulas. Take notes of the information you consider important and listen carefully to identify the phrases presented above plus a few new ones. Press PLAY when you are ready.

Quiz activity No. 2: Conjugate the verb in parenthesis to its indicative conditional form.

a) (Ustedes - ir) a Ecuador si tuvieran tiempo. _______________

b) (yo - comprar) esa camisa. _______________

c) Nos indicó que el avión (salir) a las ocho. _______________

d) Carmen (deber) hacer ejercicios. _______________

e) (Yo - vender) mi camioneta pero nadie la quiere comprar. _______________

f) (yo - venir) a tu casa pero mi carro no funciona. _______________

g) (Yo - querer) aprender japonés. _______________

h) Les (ellos - gustar) ir a la fiesta. _______________

Quiz and Listening activity No. 3: Find the mistake.

In this video the goal is for you to recognize the uses of simple conditional in daily life. It consists of four parts and in each one a situation arises from which a question will be formulated with three options to choose from and you will have to choose the correct one. Take notes of the information you consider important and listen carefully to identify the phrases presented above plus a few new ones. Press PLAY when you are ready.

Complete with the correct form of the verb in parenthesis to its indicative conditional form. Before starting with the activities, remember to contact your tutor with any question you have or to ask for more homework. Enjoy it!

Question #1

Charo: Guillermo...

Guille: Dime

Charo: ¿Sabes cómo puedo llegar al hospital?

Guille: Yo que tú cogería un UBER

Charo: ¿_______ (poder) pedirmelo tú?

Guille: Sí, dame un minuto

Charo: Gracias...

Question #2

Charo: ¡Hola Guillermo!

Guille: Hola Charo

Charo: Oye.

Guille: Dime.

Charo: ¿Este año te vas de vacaciones?

Guille: Yo sí, ¿ Y tú?

Charo: Pues no sé, me gustaría irme en septiembre, pero todavía no sé el país.

Guille: Pues _______ (deber) ir a Tailandia, me han dicho que es súper bonito.

Charo: ¡Ya he estado! Pero _______ (querer) volver...

Guille: Si quieres puedo irme contigo.

Charo: ¿Sí? ¡Vámonos! Guille: ¡Vámonos!

Question #3

Guille: Oye Charo... ¿Recuerdas qué nota sacó Britney en el examen de B1?

Charo: Pues no sé, pero posiblemente aprobaría.

Guille: Oye, ¿Y la de Katy? Sí, ella sí aprobó.

Guille: ¿Y cuántas personas había en tu grupo?

Charo: Pues _______ (tener) ocho como máximo.

Guille: Vale... -

Question #4

Guille: Hola

Charo, ¿Qué tal, cómo estás?

Charo: Enfadada... Me dijiste que _______ (venir) a la fiesta con AIL conmigo y no fuiste

Guille: Jopé, pero estaba enfermo, perdóname...

Charo: Te perdono, pero que también me dijiste que _______ (hacer) algo conmigo el domingo y nada.

Guille: Bueno, tú me dijiste que me _______ (decir) el plan y no recibí ningún mensaje...

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¡Hasta la vista!,

The Español Latino Team.

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