Do you find yourself always giving advice? (If I were you, I would…)
Do you always know better than your peers and enjoy “should”-ing all over people? (You should do this… You should be doing that…)
Do you like to imagine fantasy worlds were you’re super rich and famous? (If I were rich, I would never do homework!)
Today, we are going to dive into the world of conditional tense in Spanish – or the world of WOULD. The world of WOULD is a better world: it is full of possibilities and hypotheticals, not to mention so easy to conjugate you’ll be in awe!
Most guides only cover the simple conditional tense, but in this guide we will explain ALL conditional tenses, including continuous and perfect conditional, and then throw in examples, practice, and MORE.
In this guide you can expect to learn:
- How to form all of the Spanish conditional tenses step-by-step
- When to start using the simple, continuous, and perfect conditional tenses today!
- How to form the Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda’s of Spanish
- How NOT to slaughter mistranslations of the conditional tense
Would you like to get started?! (Conditional pun!)
Almost always, if the word “would” is applicable in English, you will be using some form of the conditional tense. The question is – do I use simple, continuous, or perfect conditional?
What other guides DON’T tell you is that there is an easy way to recognize when to use one tense or the other. Take the verb hacer (to do) as an example.
|Language||Simple Conditional||Continuous Conditional||Perfect Conditional|
|English||I would do||I would be doing||I would have done|
|Spanish||Yo haría||Yo estaría
haciendo ← gerund!
hecho ← past participle!
What’s the bottom line? You need to start noticing HOW you are using the verb “would”!
- If it is “would + verb”, it is simple conditional
- If it is “would be doing”, it is continuous
- If it is “would have done”, it is perfect conditional
We will go more in-depth on all three tenses, but let’s kick it off with the simple conditional first!
In this section, we will quickly break down how to form the simple conditional tense, practice conjugating and talk about the few irregularities that come up.
Simple conditional tense is just that – super simple! It equates to WOULD + Infinitive in English.
STEP 1: Identify the infinitive verb (hablar, comer, escribir) you want to conjugate in the conditional.
STEP 2: You just add the following endings to the infinitive verb:
For example, the verb estar (the infinitive verb to be):
estar + ía = estaría!
It’s that simple! Now you try:
|HABLAR (WOULD SPEAK)||COMER (WOULD EAT)||ESCRIBIR (WOULD WRITE)|
You should have gotten the following answers!
|HABLAR (WOULD SPEAK)||COMER (WOULD EAT)||ESCRIBIR (WOULD WRITE)|
|yo hablaría||yo comería||yo escribiría|
|tú hablarías||tú comerías||tú escribirías|
|él/ella/Usted hablaría||él/ella/Usted comería||él/ella/Usted escribiría|
|nosotros hablaríamos||nosotros comeríamos||nosotros escribiríamos|
|vosotros hablaríais||vosotros comeríais||vosotros escribiríais|
|ellos/ellas/usds hablarían||ellos/ellas/usds comerían||ellos/ellas/usds escribirían|
See, wasn’t that painless?! I literally just copied and pasted the infinitive verbs into the verb endings. It is THAT easy!
HERE’S THE CATCH: There are a few (very few!) irregular verbs that we have to keep our eye on, but they’re not that tricky!
They are only verbs ending in –er and –ir, and they are the same ones that change root in the future tense (for more on irregular verbs in the Future Tense, check out this awesome article!)
1. Swap the “i” in the infinitive to a “d”
- Salir – saldría (to go out, to leave)
- Poner –pondría (to put)
- Valer – valdría (to be worth)
- Venir – vendría (to come)
2. Cut out the “e” from the infinitive
- Haber – habría (to have)
- Caber – cabría (to fit)
- Saber – sabría (to know)
3. Random divas that follow no pattern and demand our full attention
- Hacer – haría (to do)
- Querer – querría (to want)
- Decir – diría (to say)
In this section, we will cover exactly when you would use the simple conditional tense in Spanish, give example sentences and explain when the conditional is and is NOT translated as “would”.
WARNING: A lot of conditional examples in Spanish can be pretty dramatic, like “What would I do without you Juan Pablo?”
1. To talk about what you “would” do in a specific situation
- Terminarías con él? (Would you break up with him?)
- Harías lo que sea por mí? (Would you do whatever it takes for me?)
2. To talk about events that may or may not occur
- Una luna de miel en Italia sería tan lindo! (A honeymoon in Italy would be so beautiful!)
- Sería tan horrible perder un padre. (It would be so horrible to lose a parent.)
3. To ask for/give advice
- ¿Qué harías tú en esta situación? (What would you do in this situation?)
- ¿Qué deberíamos responder? (What should we respond?)
4. To express requests politely
- Me gustaría que confíes en tu cuerpo! (I would like for you to trust your body!)
- Me encantaría casarme contigo Beatriz! (I would love to marry you Beatriz!)
5. To express the future in the past using reported speech (for a refresher on Reported Speech in Spanish, check out this handy article!)
- Me dijo que te llevaría al cine. (He told me he would take you to the cinema.)
- Le dije a mi mamá que me gustaría comer tacos hoy noche. (I told my mom that I would like to eat tacos tonight.)
6. To express “what if”: Imperfect Subjunctive + Simple Conditional (for a Complete Guide to the Imperfect Subjunctive, click here!)
- Si pudiera, iría ahorita mismo a París! (If I could, I would go right now to Paris!)
- Si no tuviera que cuidar de los niños, saldría contigo! (If I didn’t have to take care of the kids, I would go out with you!)
7. To speculate about something that happened in the past
- Después de estudiar, tendrían hambre! (Roughly translates to: After studying, they must have been hungry!)
- Esa sería la razón por la que terminaron! (Roughly translates to: That must have been the reason why they broke up!)
In this section, we will quickly break down how to form the continuous conditional tense in Spanish and have some continuous conditional practice!
The continuous conditional translates to “would be doing”, which shows a continuation of the previous tense.
It is formed by combining the simple conditional tense of the verb estar with the gerund of a second verb. Gerund is a fancy word for the –ing verbs in English. The gerund for the verb “to do” is doing.
STEP 1: Conjugate the verb estar (to be) in the simple conditional tense, which we’ve just learned requires you to take the infinitive verb and add the appropriate endings.
STEP 2: Add the appropriate gerund. Some examples of common gerunds include:
|yo||estaría haciendo||hacer – to do|
|tú||estarías comiendo||comer – eat|
|él/ella/Usted||estaría ganando||ganar – to win|
|nosotros||estaríamos practicando||practicar – to practice|
|vosotros||estaríais escuchando||escuchar – to listen|
|ellos/ellas/ustedes||estarían festejando||festejar – to party|
Take a swing at it! I will give you the pronouns and the verb that the person “would be doing” and you fill in the rest.
|yo||???||beber – to drink|
|tú||???||amar – to love|
|él/ella/Usted||???||leer – to read|
|nosotros||???||tomar – to take|
|vosotros||???||vivir – to live|
|ellos/ellas/ustedes||???||poner – to put|
|yo||estaría bebiendo||beber – to drink|
|tú||estarías amando||amar – to love|
|él/ella/Usted||estaría leyendo||leer – to read|
|nosotros||estaríamos tomando||tomar – to take|
|vosotros||estaríais viviendo||vivir – to live|
|ellos/ellas/ustedes||estarían poniendo||poner – to put|
Cómo te fue? How did you do? If you need a refresher on How to Use Spanish Gerunds, click here!
Now that we’ve learned how to form the continuous conditional, let’s learn when to use it!
In this section, we will cover exactly when to use the continuous conditional tense in Spanish and give example sentences.
The continuous conditional is very similar to its English doppelgänger – when you “would be doing” something in English, it will almost always translate directly in Spanish. Let’s look at some examples:
1. When you knew something “would be happening”
- Sabía que mis padres estarían limpiando! (I knew my parents would be cleaning!)
- Ni los llamé porque sabía que estarían trabajando. (I didn’t even call them because I knew they would be working.)
2. A hypothetical conditional paired with the imperfect subjunctive
- Si viviera en Italia, estaría trabajando con los mejores artistas! (If I lived in Italy, I would be working with the best artists!)
- Si Pablo estuviera aquí, estaríamos estudiando. (If Pablo were here, we would be studying.)
3. When you speculate about the present moment
- ¿Dónde está tu hermana? Estaría estudiando! (Where is your sister? She must be studying!)
- ¿Dónde están los niños? Estarían saliendo de la escuela ahora mismo! (Where are the kids? They must be getting out of school right now!)
Great! We’re almost done – just one more to go! Let’s break down the perfect conditional.
In this section, we will quickly break down how to form the perfect conditional tense in Spanish and then practice forming it.
The perfect conditional is the “would have done” tense, that is formed by conjugating the verb haber (to have) in the simple conditional and then adding a past participle.
STEP 1: Conjugate the verb haber in the simple conditional tense. REMEMBER – haber is IRREGULAR, so drop the “e” from the infinitive before adding the appropriate verb ending.
STEP 2: Add a past participle to the conjugated haber (i.e. dado, tomado, pensado, amado…)
|yo||habría hecho||hacer – to make|
|tú||habrías dicho||decir – to say|
|él/ella/Usted||habría querido||querer – to want|
|nosotros||habríamos estudiado||estudiar – to study|
|vosotros||habríais dormido||dormir – to sleep|
|ellos/ellas/ustedes||habrían puesto||poner – to put|
EASY PEASY! Now let’s put it to practice.
Ahora es tu turno (now it’s your turn!) I will give you the pronouns and the verb that the person “would have done” and you fill in the rest.
|yo||???||conocer – to know|
|tú||???||comer – to eat|
|él/ella/Usted||???||soñar – to dream|
|nosotros||???||reducir – to reduce|
|vosotros||???||contemplar – to contemplate|
|ellos/ellas/ustedes||???||preparar – to prepare|
|yo||habría conocido||conocer – to know|
|tú||habrías comido||comer – to eat|
|él/ella/Usted||habría soñado||soñar – to dream|
|nosotros||habríamos reducido||reducir – to reduce|
|vosotros||habríais contemplado||contemplar – to contemplate|
|ellos/ellas/ustedes||habrían preparado||preparar – to prepare|
Super fácil! If you need a refresher on Past Participles in Spanish, check out this awesome article!
Now that we’ve learned how to form the perfect conditional, let’s learn when to use it!
Here, we will break down the few cases where you will need to use the perfect conditional, and then provide some example sentences to see it in action!
There are only two real uses of the perfect conditional – one which translates as “would have done”, and one of those uniquely Spanish phrases that speculate about the past (hopefully you’re seeing a pattern here…)
1. To express something that “would have happened” but didn’t (using the past perfect subjunctive and perfect conditional).
- Si no hubiéramos ido, esto no habría pasado! (If we hadn’t gone, this wouldn’t have happened!)
- Si hubierais estudiado más, habríais sacado notas más altas! (If you all had studied more, you would have gotten higher marks!)
2. To express a supposition or the probability of a past situation that has already taken place
- Seguramente habrían sufrido mucho. (They must have/probably suffered a lot.)
- (Ella) habría estado muy nerviosa cuando no pasó el examen! (She must have been very nervous when she didn’t pass the exam!)
We’ve done it! We’ve successfully covered all of the Spanish conditional tenses.
Now I will show you a couple more TOP SECRET tricks to make you a real conditional tense ninja!
Let’s be real – how many times a day do you say “you shoulda seen that” or “I wish I coulda gone” or “you woulda killed it!”?
Shoulda coulda wouldas are WAY more common than we think and something we usually just skip over! Here’s a quick tip to nail them down and start using them TODAY!
SHOULDA: The verbs “should have (done)” should remind you of the perfect conditional. But there’s ONE extra step. In Spanish, we take the verb deber and conjugate it in the simple conditional, then add the verb haber in the infinitive, ending with a past participle. It looks like this:
debería + haber + hecho (visto, dicho, puesto, querido, estudiado…)
- No deberías haber dicho eso! (You shouldn’t have said that!)
- Deberías haberlo visto! (You should have seen it!)
COULDA: The verbs “could have (done)” follow the same recipe, except replace deber with the verb poder (to be able to). REMEMBER: the verb poder is irregular, so cut out the “e”. Take a look…
podría + haber + hecho (ido, practicado, comido, limpiado, amado…)
- No podría haberlo dicho mejor! (I couldn’t have said it better!)
- No podría haberlo inventado! (I couldn’t have made it up!)
WOULDA: This can be broken down into the verbs “would have (done)”, which we covered in the perfect conditional. HOWEVER, there is one translation that isn’t covered:
I wish I would have done (____)…
In this case, habría hecho isn’t appropriate. Instead, you would use the verb desear (to wish or desire), plus haber, and then finally end with a participle. It looks like this:
desearía + haber + hecho (pensado, comunicado, escrito…)
- Desearía haberlo pensado! (I wish I would have thought of that!)
- Desearía haberle confesado mi amor! (I wish I would have confessed my eternal love to him!)
BOTTOM LINE: If you follow the above pattern, you will take your conditional Spanish skills up to MASTER/NATIVE LEVEL!
“There are people who shouldn’t be looking for their half orange (aka their other half)… but instead for the screw that’s missing.”
The Spanish conditional tense can be used in almost ALL of the ways you would use it in English, except for a few exceptions that would trip up even the most seasoned grammar nerd!
As Native English speakers, we don’t need any help making fools out of ourselves, so when we get FIRST CLASS tips like these, it’s best to take notes. Take a look at two situations where you should avoid using the conditional tense in Spanish at all costs!
In English, we use “would” while ordering in a restaurant.
“I would like to have a glass of water.”
And while the direct translation is tempting, it is not used at all in this situation:
“Me gustaría tener un vaso de agua.” ❌
This is more of a philosophical query about actually having a glass of water rather than a simple request for a waiter to grab a glass of water.
Instead, you could use ANOTHER form of the conditional to still demonstrate courtesy:
“Me podría dar un vaso de agua, por favor?” ✅
(To learn how to avoid antiquated restaurant lingo in Spanish, check out How to Sound Natural while Ordering Food!)
Another way English speakers can misuse the Spanish conditional tense is by explaining something they USED TO DO in the past, referring to a habitual or repeated action. For example:
“When I was in school, I would study all the time.”
Again, it is tempting to translate this sentence word for word, which would give the following resultado (result):
“Cuando estaba en la escuela, estudiaría todo el tiempo.” ❌
The correct tense to use in this scenario is the imperfect, which translates to: I used to study…
“Cuando estaba en la escuela, estudiaba todo el tiempo.” ✅
(For a deeper look at the imperfect tense, check out Imperfect Tense Forms here).
I know you would like this to be over, so to sum it up, we have covered:
- How to form the simple, continuous AND perfect conditional tenses step-by-step
- When to use all the Spanish conditional tenses, and when they do & DO NOT translate directly
- Quick formula to form the Shoulda Coulda Wouldas
- How to avoid using the conditional like a gringo!
Even though I have gotten you this far with flawless insight and some conditional puns, you may still need a little time to practice! Check out our games on the conditional tense so you can master your Spanish TODAY!
FINALLY, you should definitely refer to this article as your best friend! Buena suerte y hasta luego amigos!
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