Spanish Conditional Tense:

Everything You Need To Know

By Tamara Mathov


Ready for a deep dive into the Spanish Conditional Tense?

More than simply expressing “would” and “should”, the conditional tense adds quite a bit of texture to the Spanish language. It is not only about what you say, but how you say it.

Since there are a lot of elements to consider, I’ve decided to divide this article into two parts: The Conditional Tense and The Conditional Sentence.


Part I: The Spanish Conditional Tense

You’ll be glad to know that even if it has a fancy name, the conditional tense is one of the easiest forms of Spanish verbs.

As previously stated, it is equivalent to the English “would”, but instead of being a word added before a verb as it happens in English, the conditional is contained inside the verb. So, every Spanish verb conjugates in the conditional tense.


Conjugation pattern

Simple Conditional Tense

You may already be familiar with conjugations, which are one of the most challenging aspects of learning Spanish. But in case you are as forgetful as I am, I will clarify it once and for all:

A verb always has two parts: a root and a suffix. The root tends to stay relatively fixed, while the suffix is something we add to the root. The changes made to that suffix is what we call a conjugation. That is to say that when we change the person (I, you, he, she, it, we, you all, they), the time (present, preterite, conditional, etc.) or mood (imperative, subjunctive or indicative) we are conjugating a verb.

Conjugations usually follow certain patterns, and lucky for you, the Spanish conditional pattern is very easy. Let’s take a look at it:


But, where do we put these? After the infinitives. Infinitives are full verbs, those that appear in the dictionary and that in Spanish always end in -ar, -er, -ir.

Table 2: Regular Conditionals


And that’s it! This tense, together with the Future Tense, are the simplest of all.

But Spanish usually isn’t this nice. It always has to complicate everything and mess with our brains.

So I’ll just say it: there are exceptions. But only twelve! (I know that sounds like a lot but bear with me)

A peculiarity is that conditional tense irregular verbs don’t have weird suffixes, so Table 1 applies for every verb.  However, the ROOTS are different.

Let’s organize these twelve irregular verbs into three groups.

Table 3: The infinitive vowel drops and replaced with a “D”

To go outSalirsaldríasaldríassaldríasaldríamossaldríansaldrían
To haveTenertendríatendríastendríatendríamostendríantendrían
To be worthValervaldríavaldríasvaldríavaldríamosvaldríanvaldrían
To putPonerpondríapondríaspondríapondríamospondríanpondrían
To comeVenirvendríavendríasvendríavendríamosvendríanvendrían

Table 4: The “E” drops

To fitCaberCabríaCabríasCabríaCabríamosCabríanCabrían
To haveHaberHabríaHabríasHabríaHabríamosHabríanHabrían
To knowSaberSabríaSabríasSabríaSabríamosSabríanSabrían
To be ablePoderPodríaPodríasPodríaPodríamosPodríanPodrían

Table 5: Whimsical verbs that follow no rule

To wantQuererQuerríaQuerríasQuerríaQuerríamosQuerríanQuerrían
To sayDecirDiríaDiríasDiríaDiríamosDiríanDirían
To doHacerHaríaHaríasHaríaHaríamosHaríanHarían

While “Querer” adds an extra “R”; “Decir” changes the R for an I and drops the C, and “Hacer” drops the C and the E.

Compound Conditional Tense

As every other compound tense, this one requires the verb “haber” and the participle of whatever verb we need to use.

As we’ve seen in Table 4, “haber” is irregular and its E falls when it conjugates in the Spanish conditional tense:

Table 6

To haveHaberHabríaHabríasHabríaHabríamosHabríanHabrían

Let’s try to translate “I wouldn’t have talked to her”.

Our sentence has an I subject, so we’ll use the form “habría”. After conjugating “haber”, we need to find the participle form of the second verb, in our case, “to talk”, that is “hablar”.

How do we know the participle form? For regular -ar verbs, we need the suffix “-ado”; while for regular -er and -ir verbs we need the suffix “-ido”. This means that we drop the -ar, -er or -ir and we replace it with the proper ending.


Therefore, “I wouldn’t have talked to her” translates as:

“No habría hablado con ella”.


When do we use the Conditional Tense?


Now that you know how to conjugate the Spanish conditional tense like a pro, you may be wondering…what do you need all of this for? Let’s go over the different situations where you should have the conditional tense handy.


  • Sería hermoso viajar a Italia (It would be beautiful traveling to Italy)
  • Iría en julio, pues enero es muy frío (I would go in July, since January is very cold)

This is pretty straight-forward: whenever you are dreaming about the future, you use the conditional tense.


  • Yo no habría hecho eso (I wouldn’t have done that)
  • Le diría que no me gusta lo que hace (I would tell him/her that I don’t like what he/she is doing.)

We all have loved ones that usually don’t do what is best for them. The Spanish conditional tense is perfect for dishing out advice.


  • ¿Me prestarías ese vestido? (Would you lend me that dress?)
  • ¿Lo harías por mí? (Would you do it for me?).

If you are about to ask for a favor, you want to sound as nice as possible, right? Conjugating your verbs in the Spanish conditional tense could dramatically improve your social skills ;)

Uncertainty about the past

  • En ese entonces tendría diez o doce años (Back then, I was about ten or twelve years old)
  • Sería el año 1989 o 1990 (It was the year 1989 o 1990).

Let’s face it, the older we are, the harder it gets to remember things. When did my parents meet? When did we travel to Europe? No worries, if you aren’t 100% sure just add a conditional suffix to express your uncertainty.

The future of the past

  • La semana pasada dijeron que vendrían ayer (Last week they said that they would come yesterday)
  • Cuando empezaste el trabajo dijiste que terminarías el mes pasado (when you started the job you said that you would finish last month).

“The future of the past” sounds contradictory, I know. Timelines aren’t as simple as we think. Let’s check this graph:


It is 4:00 pm now. Juan said last night that he was going to come over in the morning. “Last night” is in the past, of course. And “the morning” is in the past as well. But that same morning was the future when Juan mentioned it. So there you go: the morning is the future of the past.

Conditional sentences

  • Si hubiera viajado más, habría sido más feliz (If he had traveled more, he would have been happier)
  • Si fueramos temprano, habría menos gente (If we had gone earlier, there would be fewer people)

And finally, we got to this whole new world of Spanish conditional sentences. The conditional sentence is obviously a sentence, but not any sentence. In order to be conditional, it needs to have two clauses, and one will be a condition for the other. When A happens, B happens. “Si hubiera viajado más” and “si fueramos temprano” are the conditions for “habría sido más feliz” and “habría menos gente”.

But conditional sentences aren’t always crystal clear. Let’s dive in deeper in Part II: Conditional Sentences.



Part II: Spanish Conditional Sentences

The word “if” is the diva of conditional sentences. If you pay attention, you’ll notice that you use these kinds of sentences many times a day. I’ve just did. They are very important for practical daily situations, such as explaining that you might be late or that you might not be able to hand in your work before Monday.  They also have more interesting applications, such as giving advice to your friends, dreaming about impossible scenarios, or being a little bit melodramatic imagining how your life could have been (Okay, maybe that last one’s just me).

As we mentioned in Part I, a condition implies a requirement: something needs to happen in order for something else to happen.

In spite of having many formulas and confusing names, this subject isn’t that hard. It’s straight forward and has no exceptions. Seriously, not a single one. It also works in a similar fashion in both English and Spanish.

To get warmed up, let’s analyze a few sentences in English:

1- If you feel tired, you take a nap.

2- If we want to stay, we will stay.

3- I would borrow it, if you had that.

4- They would have done it, if they had had any interest on that.

5- If he had come with you, he would be here now.

“If you feel tired”, “If we want to stay”, “If you had that”, “If they had had any interest on that” and “if he had come with you” are all conditions for the other clauses “you take a nap”, “we will stay”, “I would borrow it”, “they would have done it” and “he would be there now”.

First, we can see that “If” introduces the condition, but the order of the clauses could be any.

Second, you may have noticed that many tenses were used in these examples. What is the difference between using the present, the past or the conditional tense? For instance, in sentence 3 we use the past tense even though the sentence is referring to the future.

Confusing, right?

It turns out that when it comes to conditional sentences, tenses don’t simply refer to the timeline, they also show us how likely the condition is to be fulfilled.

There are four –and a half– types of conditionals. Let’s break these down.


Zero – Real Habitual :

This structure is used to express possible conditions that are always or frequently true.

These can be pretty obvious things, such as “if you don’t sleep, you get tired”; or specific situations related to specific contexts or people “if she has time, Maria reads a short-story before going to work”. Anything that happens habitually will take this structure. Said in other words, if you want to speak about conditions that are usually repeated, you need to use the zero conditional.

But how do we phrase it in Spanish? In the exact same way:

Simple present + simple present

Therefore, “If I have time, I read a book” will translate as “Si tengo tiempo, leo un libro”.



First: Real Future Possibilities

We use the first conditional to refer to real possibilities in the future. When we say that it is a real possibility, it means that it may or may not happen. You are not sure yet.

For instance, when you have a lot of work but you also want to have dinner with your friends, you may say “if I finish on time, I will go to the restaurant”.

What tenses do we need in Spanish? Once more, the same tenses we use in English:

Simple present + future tense

So, “If I finish on time, I will go to the restaurant” will be “Si termino a tiempo, iré al restaurante”



Second: Imaginary Situations in the Future

The second conditional is imaginary. You already know that you are not going to do it; you are just referring to a parallel universe where that would be plausible.

If your friend invites you to her house but you are traveling, you can say to her “If I were there, I would go”.  You are not there, therefore, you won’t go. In this case, we aren’t facing a possibility, but an imaginary situation.

The Spanish formula is a little bit more complex than the previous ones:

Past Subjunctive + Simple Conditional Tense

“If I were there, I would go” translates as “Si estuviera ahí, iría”



Third: Imaginary Situations in the Past:

Imagine that you returned from that trip and you finally got to see your friend. You may say “If I had been here that day, I would have gone to your house”. This is also imaginary and not a possibility, so it is very similar to the third conditional.

But since Spanish conditional sentences use the past tense to show that the situation is imaginary, we need a different tense to refer to the past. The formula is:

Compound Past Subjunctive + Compound Conditional Tense

“If I had been here that day, I would have gone to your house” would be “Si hubiera estado aquí ese día, habría ido a tu casa”


Sometimes, third and second conditionals can be combined.

If something had been different in the past, the present or future may be different as well. In these cases, the “if” clause will take the compound subjunctive form, while the other clause will take the Simple Conditional Tense.


That’s all! Is your brain hurting? I know it was a lot of information. Don’t worry if it seems to be all over the place now, just take a look at this last graph that organizes all the possibilities listed above.


We are done! Now you are not only able to conjugate in the Conditional Tense, but you can also come up with much more complex structures and develop some real bad habits such as regretting the past or giving advice to all your Spanish speaking friends.

Thank you for sharing. Like us to stay in touch!
Send this to a friend