How to express “hope”: Italian grammar lesson 163

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Sperare in the past

As you might know, sperare in Italian means “to hope”. If you want to learn how to express hope in the past in Italian, first of all, you need to know we use the imperfetto (imperfect tense). 

Here’s the conjugation of the verb sperare in the imperfetto:

  • Io speravo – I hoped
  • Tu speravi – You hoped
  • Lui/Lei sperava – He/She hoped
  • Noi speravamo – We hoped
  • Voi speravate – You hoped
  • Loro speravano – They hoped

Speravo + che + past conditional

We usually hope in the present that something will happen in the future. It’s exactly the same thing in the past: we hoped in the past that something would have happened in the future.

These two ideas (phrases) are linked by the word “che” (= that), as you can see in the examples below: 

Speravo + che + sarebbe venuta alla festa.

I hoped + that + she would have come to the party.

Loro speravano + che + avrebbe comprato qualcosa.

They hoped + that + he would have bought something.

Obviously, you can combine two phrases depending on what exactly you want to say. 

You might have noticed that we need the past conditional (condizionale passato) in the second phrase which indicates the future in the past. 

Past conditional with avere

Now let’s look at the conjugation of the past conditional with the auxiliary verb avere:

  • Io avrei comprato – I would have bought
  • Tu avresti comprato – You would have bought
  • Lui/Lei avrebbe comprato – He/She would have bought
  • Noi avremmo comprato – We would have bought
  • Voi avreste comprato – You would have bought
  • Loro avrebbero comprato – They would have bought

Past conditional with essere


Here’s the conjugation with the auxiliary verb essere. Make sure you pay attention to how the verb agrees with the subject in terms of gender (feminine or masculine) and number (plural or singular) at the end of each past participle: venuto/venuta/venuti/venute):

  • Io sarei venuto/a – I would have come
  • Tu saresti venuto/a – You would have come
  • Lui/Lei sarebbe venuto/a – He/She would have come
  • Noi saremmo venuti/e – We would have come
  • Voi sareste venuti/e – You would have come
  • Loro sarebbero venuti/e -They would have come


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Now let’s have a look at some more examples:

Io speravo che lei sarebbe venuta.

I hoped she would have come.

Lei sperava che la sua amica le avrebbe comprato un regalo.

She hoped her friend would have bought her a present.

Noi speravamo che voi sareste andati in vacanza.

We hoped you would have gone on holiday.

I miei genitori speravano che io avrei telefonato.

My parents hoped I would have called.

So, basically, we link the main verb “to hope” in the imperfect tense and what was hoped (using the past conditional) with the word che.

A word that is often used together with sperare is proprio (just, really).

Another word that expresses a wish or hope is magari.

Still translating in your head? Wanna speak Italian for real? Check out Stefano's courses to think directly in Italian and become fluent fast!


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