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Teaching the Conditional Tense in Spanish

written by: Kena Sosa • edited by: Rebecca Scudder • updated: 9/13/2012

If it gets complicated to say in English, imagine figuring out how to say it in Spanish: This is the case for many Spanish-learners when trying to use the conditional tense. Conditional tense verbs are often combined with other verbs, but you can still learn how to use them here.

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    Conjugating the Past Tense

    The conditional tense in Spanish is one of the more complicated grammatical structures to learn. Depending on what exactly you are saying, there could be a few ways to construct your sentence and conjugate your verb. The most common usage for the conditional tense is the “If I would have (verb in ido/ado form)..."

    Si hubiera sabido (If I would have known)…

    This is an example of a past conditional statement, which is used often. The rest of the sentence would end with the future conditional form of the verb.

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    Future Conditional Tense

    The future conditional tense can be used on its own as well in sentences that depict what one would do.

    Yo viajaría por todo el mundo. (I would travel the world).

    This can be used in the negative sense as well.

    Yo no comería eso. (I would not eat that).

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    Negative Conditional Tense

    The past negative conditional form will almost always use the verb haber meaning ‘to be’ to form meaning. In the conditional form, hubiera, will be conjugated as any other verb but in the conditional style.

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    Conditional Conjugation

    Haber-to be-hubiera

    Yo hubiera….

    Tú hubieras…

    Él/ella/Ud. hubiera…

    Ellos/ellas/Uds. hubieran…

    Nosotros hubiéramos…

    Other verbs can also be conjugated into this irregular tense but are not as widely used. Verbs ending in ‘ar’ will be conjugated differently than those ending in ‘er’ or ‘ir.’

    Comer - to eat-comiera

    Tomar - to drink/to take-tomara (the second syllable should be stressed here so as not to confuse this with the future tense in which the last syllable will have an accent)

    Lucir - to look good-luciera

    When using verbs other than haber, you do not have to use a follow-up verb in the –ado/-ido form. When using haber, you should always use another verb in this format.

    Me hubiera gustado conocerte antes. (I would have liked to have met you sooner).

    Si ella me hubiera visto, me lo daría. (If she would have seen me, she would have given it to me).

    The second part of this sentence contains a conditional verb used as the future in the past.

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    Practice Listening and Forming Sentences

    The conditional tense of Spanish verbs is in all likelihood the most confusing and requires a good deal of practice to master as well as a listening ear. Keep your ears open to the usage of the conditional tense in conversations and your eyes open in books. You will gain an understanding of the meaning of it and then you will soon be able to use it yourself.

References

  • http://www.studyspanish.com/lessons/conditional.htm