What are “if clauses”?
Do you know what “if clauses” are?
If not, here are some examples in English for you to understand better:
- If you cry, you feel better afterward.
- If it rains, I won’t go out.
- If you studied, you would pass your exam.
- If you had listened to me, you would have done the right thing.
As you can see, we have 4 “if clauses” in English. We always have a condition (the “if” clause) and the potential result (the other clause).
We could say we’re talking about hypotheses.
That’s why in Italian we call it periodo ipotetico (literally, “hypothetical period”).
What’s the periodo ipotetico?
In Italian, we use the periodo ipotetico all the time.
There are 3 types:
- Type 1 – reality
- Type 2 – possibility
- Type 3 – impossibility
Try to guess why we call them like that.
In today’s lesson, we’re going to focus on the Italian “if clause” – type 2: the one about a possibility.
Here’s an example:
Se avessi tanti soldi, andrei dappertutto.
If I had money, I would go everywhere.
Se veniste con noi, vi divertireste.
If you came with us, you would have fun.
Italian if clause – type 2
We use this type of “if clause” – the one about a possibility – to express a possible hypothesis, something that could happen in the future, but can also not happen.
Basically, if it happened, it could have a certain consequence.
Remember it’s all about a condition and a consequence.
In this case, the consequence is possible but not 100% certain.
Its English equivalent is pretty similar.
Let’s have a look at some more examples:
Se venissi qui, andremmo in montagna.
If you came here, we would go to the mountain.
Se mi dicessi quello che pensi, ti direi quello che penso io.
If you told me what you think, I would tell you what I think.
Italian if clause – type 2: structure
Let’s now focus on the structure of the Italian “if clause” – type 2.
In the case of a possible hypothesis, we use the congiuntivo imperfetto (imperfect subjunctive) in the clause expressing the condition (the one starting with “se”) and the present conditional in the clause expressing the consequence.
So, this is the structure:
- se + imperfect subjunctive + present conditional
If you don’t remember or if you just don’t know how to form the imperfect subjunctive or/and present conditional, keep reading the next two sections.
If you don’t need to review this, you can skip to the section with examples.
Italian if clause – type 2: imperfect subjunctive
We use the imperfect subjunctive to formulate a hypothesis. That’s why we need it in this type of construction.
In order to form the imperfect subjunctive in Italian, you have to remove -ARE, -ERE, and -IRE from the infinitive (the base form of the verb) and add the correct endings, which are in bold in the table below.
You’ll notice the recurrence of the double “s“. This will help you learn their conjugation.
There are some verbs that are irregular in the imperfect subjunctive.
Here’s the conjugation of the most common ones:
- dare: io dessi, tu dessi, lui/lei dessi, noi dessimo, voi deste, loro dessero
- dire: io dicessi, tu dicessi, lui/lei dicesse, noi dicessimo, voi diceste, loro dicessero
- essere: io fossi, tu fossi, lui/lei fosse, noi fossimo, voi foste, loro fossero
- fare: io facessi, tu facessi, lui/lei facesse, noi facessimo, voi faceste, loro facessero
- stare: io stessi, tu stessi, lui/lei stesse, noi stessimo, voi steste, loro stessero
Italian if clause – type 2: present conditional
We use the present conditional to express a possible outcome. That’s why we use it together with the clause introducing the condition.
Forming the present conditional in Italian is quite easy.
Take any verb, drop the final -e in its infinitive form, and add the following endings:
Let’s have a look at some conjugated verbs:
There are some irregular verbs, of course.
We’ll just give you the first conjugation. You can conjugate the rest on your own by just adding the endings we saw above:
- Andare (to go): andrei
- Bere (to drink): berrei
- Dovere (to have to): dovrei
- Potere (to be able to): potrei
- Rimanere (to stay): rimarrei
- Sapere (to know): saprei
- Vedere (to see): vedrei
- Vivere (to live): vivrei
- Volere (to want): vorrei
Practice with QuizletHere's a set of flashcards and quizzes to practice this grammar topic.
Italian if clause – type 2: examples
Let’s now see some examples with conditions and possible outcomes:
Se potessi, verrei a trovarti.
If I could, I would come to see you.
Se facessi sport, saresti in forma.
If you did some sport, you would be in shape.
Se avessi delle uova, farei una torta.
If I had eggs, I would make a cake.
Se non piovesse, andrei al mare.
If it didn’t rain, I would go to the beach.
La tua macchina sarebbe più bella, se la lavassi.
Your car would be nicer if you washed it.
Se cercassi lavoro, lo troveresti.
If you looked for a job, you would find it.
Still translating in your head? Wanna speak Italian for real? Check out Stefano's courses to think directly in Italian and become fluent fast!