Spanish Verbs: Conditional Tense

The conditional tense in Spanish is used to express what would, could, must have, or probably will happen in the future. While similar to the future tense, the conditional tense expresses more of a possibility of what could happen, or hypothetical situation. The conditional tense is formed by adding the following endings to regular infinitive -ar, -er, and -ir verbs.

  • ía
  • ías
  • ía
  • íamos
  • íais
  • ían
Read and listen to the following examples of the conditional tense using the verb "hablar" (to speak), then repeat each out loud. Remember, regular -ar, -er, and -ir verbs are all conjugated in the conditional tense the same way.

I would speak
you would speak (familiar)
you would speak (formal)
he would speak
she would speak
we would speak
you would speak (familiar plural)
you would speak (formal plural)
they would speak

Read and listen to the following examples of the conditional tense for regular -ar, -er, and -ir verbs. Then repeat each one out loud. These examples demonstrate how the conditional tense can be used to express both probability and possibility.

She would go to the store.
Ella iría a la tienda.
The students said they would study for two more hours.
Los estudiantes dijeron que estudiarían dos horas más.
We were probably busy when they rang the doorbell.
Estaríamos ocupados cuando tocaron el timbre.
What time could it have been?
¿Qué hora sería?
Would he have been in his car?
¿Estaría en su coche?

The same Spanish verbs that are irregular in the future tense are also irregular in the conditional tense. The following is a list of the irregular verbs with their corresponding stems in the conditional tense. To form the conditional tense with irregular verbs, simply add the conditional tense endings to the verb stems below.
Irregular Verb
Conditional Tense Stem
caber (to fit)
poner (to put)
haber (to have)
decir (to tell)
hacer (to do)
salir (to leave)
poder (to be able)
tener (to have)
querer (to want)
saber (to know)
valer (to worth)
venir (to come)

Uses of the Conditional Tense

The following examples demonstrate the many uses of the conditional tense in Spanish. Study each one, listen them, then repeat each loud.

- to express speculation about the past

That week they must have built more than one hundred houses.
Aquella semana construirían más de cien casas.

- to express the future from the perspective of the past

I knew they would arrive to the game late.
Yo sabía que llegarían tarde al juego.

- to express an event that may or may not take place

It would be exciting to visit the moon.
Sería interesante visitar la luna.

- to communicate would happen if circumstances didn't prevent it

I would buy the coat but I don't have enough money.
Yo compraría el abrigo pero no tengo dinero suficiente

- to soften requests and be polite

Could you please tell me how to get to the hospital?
Por favor, ¿podría decirme como llegar al hospital?

- to ask for advice

How would you do it?
¿Como lo haría Ud.?

- to communicate what would be done in a special situation

Would you speak Spanish in France?
¿Hablarías español en Francia?

- for reported speech

Mark said that he would come to the party.
Marcos dijo que vendría a la fiesta.

- express uncertainty of time

What time could it have been?
¿Qué hora sería?

Know that when the main clause of a sentence is in the past, the conditional tense is used. However, if the main clause is in the present, then the future tense is used. Consider the following examples.

Diego said he would arrive at 10 o'clock.
Diego dijo que llegaría a las diez.
Diego says he will arrive at 10 o'clock.
Diego dice que llegará a las diez.