The Present Conditional in Spanish

The Present Conditional and the Future Simple in Spanish have lots of things in common. Firstly, both are easy to form. Unlike other tenses (Past Simple or event Present), the Present Conditional and the Future Simple have just a few irregularities.

However, sometimes we can mislead the Present Conditional with the Past Imperfect. It makes complete sense because both the use and the form are similar. That is why we must pay close attention to the sound –r-.

comía → (ate) – comería → (would eat)

había → (had) – habría → (would have)

tenía → (had) – tendría → (would have)

Another common mistake is confounding the Present Conditional as a verbal tense with the conditional sentences. It is something perfectly normal, they share the name, and the Present Conditional can be useful to create conditional sentences. Here we are not going to talk about conditional sentences but the Present Conditional as a verbal tense. In other posts (links at the bottom), we have already taken a look at these sentences.

As we have said before, verbal tenses names are kind of confusing. For example, the Present Conditional is not always used to talk about conditions. Let’s take a look at other uses.

Predicting the Past

Cristina at the hospital

The Future Simple allows us to make predictions about the present. 

Imagine this situation: 

Cristina is at the hospital, she is an emergency doctor. Pedro has phoned her, but she hasn’t answered. Then, Pedro says: 

  • No me ha cogido el teléfono, estará en el hospital

The Present Conditional, Future Simple close friend, allows us to make the same suppositions but talking about the past. 

Pedro is talking to us. He is telling us about his previous experience. He called Cristina, who is an emergency doctor, but she didn’t answer. Then he says: 

  • No me cogió el teléfono, estaría en el hospital. 

Formulating Hypotheses About the Present and the Future

For example, when we want to advise someone we can put ourselves in their place and say:

  • Si yo fuera tú iría al médico.
  • Yo que tú iría al médico.
  • Yo en tu lugar iría al médico.

All three sentences mean the same. We use the Present Conditional of the verb «ir» because we are hypothesizing.

We can also use it in sentences like: 

  • Tienes muy buen pulso, serías muy buena cirujana.

The person we are talking with is not a surgeon, but we base our opinion on what we see, so we hypothesize again about an alternative reality.

Courtesy and Modesty

There are several courtesy strategies in Spanish. For example, one of them is using the Past Imperfect. Every time we want to use this strategy, we put ourselves afar for what we are saying.

Usually, we use the Present Conditional when we want to ask for something. We use it in an interrogative sentence:

  • ¿Podrías hacerme una receta de Paracetamol?
  • ¿Podrías traerme un poco de leche de soja para el café?
The French Revolution started, indeed, in 1789

Another common and linked to the above use is to express modesty. When we want to assert something but we don’t want to sound too eager, intense or confident about what we are saying, we use the Present Conditional:

  • Yo juraría que la Revolución francesa empezó en 1789.
  • Diría que la Real Academia Española no tiene razón la mayoría de las veces.

Reported Speech

Sometimes, the Reported Speech is kind of messy. Here, we are going to take a look at a small part related to the Present Conditional.

When we want to express future ideas or promises using the Reported Speech (in the past, which is the most commonly used type of Reported Speech), we use the Present Conditional:

  • MARCOS: ¡Empezaré a estudiar ya mismo y aprobaré todos los exámenes!
  • Marcos dijo que empezaría a estudiar en aquel momento y que aprobaría todos los exámenes.

As we can see, there is, again, a bond between future and conditional.

Expresar deseos

What would you prefer?

This use is close to conditional sentences. We use the Present Conditional to talk about difficult or impossible wishes. As a rule, we use verbs like ‘prefer’ or ‘like’:

  • Me gustaría tener más tiempo para leer, pero en el mundo capitalista en el que vivimos es imposible.
  • Preferiría trabajar menos horas al día para poder dedicar más tiempo al ocio.

If you want to take a look at Conditional sentences, you can also check:

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