conditional mood in portuguese

The Conditional

If you had to say which mood is used in the bolded part of this sentence, what would be your guess? Well, you may have guessed just from reading the title that this is an example of the conditional mood, used to talk about hypothetical situations that are conditional or dependent on something else.  In European Portuguese, it’s called condicional paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio conditional (or futuro do pretérito in Brazil) and it’s a single-tense mood.

Forming Conditional Conjugations

The conditional in Portuguese is a very easy mood to conjugate. All you need to do is take the infinitive form of a verb and add the following endings:

Pronoun/Person Ending
Eu -ia
Tu -ias
Ele, ela, você -ia
Nós -íamos
Eles, elas, vocês -iam

And you’re in luck — there are only three irregular verbs in the conditional!:
dizer paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to say fazer paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to do trazer paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to bring
For these three verbs, before adding the endings above, you first need to replace the final –zer with –r, which leaves you with the roots dir-, far– and trar-. As an example, this is how the verb dizer would be conjugated in the conditional:

Pronoun/Person Conjugation
Eu diria paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I would say
Tu dirias paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio you(sing.inf.) would say
Ele, ela, você diria paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio he, she, you(sing.form.) would say
Nós diríamos paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio we would say
Eles, elas, vocês diriam paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio they, you(plural) would say

For every verb other than dizer, fazer, and trazer, the infinitive remains unchanged before adding the endings, even for verbs that are highly irregular in all other moods, such as ser paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to be:

Pronoun/Person Conjugation
Eu seria paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I would be
Tu serias paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio you(sing.inf.) would be
Ele, ela, você seria paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio he, she, you(sing.form.) would be
Nós seríamos paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio we would be
Eles, elas, vocês seriam paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio they, you(plural) would say

Using the Conditional in Sentences

The main challenge when using the conditional is really the rest of the sentence! It can be challenging to properly construct full sentences because the conditional often needs to be combined with other, more complicated moods/tenses, such as the imperfect subjunctive and the personal infinitive. You can’t fully master the conditional without decent knowledge of other verb forms. Let’s look at a few examples to give you some familiarity with how the conditional is used in sentences.

Using the conditional  to discuss hypothetical situations

Se eu fosse rico, eu não trabalharia. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio If I were rich, I would not work. Fosse is an imperfect subjunctive (pretérito imperfeito do conjuntivo) form of ser paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to be and helps establish the condition under which the second part of the sentence holds true.
Para teres tempo, tu terias de cancelar alguns compromissos. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio For you to have time, you would have to cancel some commitments. Teres is one of the personal infinitive (infinitivo pessoal) forms of ter paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to have.
Ninguém adivinharia a sua idade! paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio No one would guess your age! This sentence is trickier because, rather than being added to the sentence, the condition is merely implied. No one would guess this person’s age if they tried or if they saw them.

Other variations of the conditional

The conditional can also be used in sentences that are set in a past time, but describe a future event. This helps explain why it can also be called futuro do pretérito (future of the past).
Eu não acreditava que tu virias. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I didn't believe that you would come.
Ele disse que mudaria o seu comportamento. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio He said that he would change his behaviour.
The conditional can also be expressed without using it at all! In European Portuguese, it’s accepted in casual speech to replace the conditional by the imperfect past (pretérito imperfeito do indicativo), with no change in meaning.
Se eu pudesse, faria tudo outra vez. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio If I could, I would do everything again. = Se eu pudesse, fazia tudo outra vez. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio If I could, I would do everything again.

Comments

  • Good intro to the conditional, guys!

    For English speakers in particular, the conditional is often used to soften or make a demand or request more polite. For example, “I would (I’d) like a beer” as opposed to “I want a beer”. In my observation, here in Lisbon, more often than not, I’ll hear the present indicative used very often in that type of situation. So when the butcher says, “Diga!”, I might hear the customer say “quero”, or as you mentioned, the imperfect indicative “queria”, more often than “quereria”, although the conditional “quereria” would be correct, as well. Or in a restaurant, when in English I would say, “Could you please bring…”, it seems like I hear the present indicative “Pode trazer…” extremely often, without any attenuation of politeness. I’m curious to hear, what do you guys think?

    • Thanks, Michael. I agree that not everyone uses the conditional or imperfect when asking for things, or not all the time. That’s not a problem, because body language and tone can also convey politeness/friendliness on their own (if the person wants to seem friendly!). Ideally, people would still remember to add a “por favor/se faz favor” and/or, most importantly, “obrigado/obrigada” 🙂

  • Thank you very much for this unit. It’s something that has been bothering/puzzling me on and off for around 5 years and this is the best explanation by far!! Muito obrigada!

  • Olá,
    no lição você escreveu “Eles diriam para nós começarmos a comer”
    posso também dizer “ Eles diriam para nós que começarmos a comer “ e
    “Eles diziam no-lo começarmos a comer”. Ou talvez mude o significado?
    Obrigado e cumprimentos
    Manfred

    • Olá, Manfred. Nenhuma das alternativas é gramaticalmente correta. Uma alternativa possível, para substituir o “nós”, é dizer “Eles dir-nos-iam para começarmos a comer”, mas não é habitual na linguagem informal.
      Quanto ao pronome clítico ‘-(l)o’, ele substitui todo o complemento direto (direct object), então, com o clítico, a frase ficaria reduzida a: “Eles dir-no-lo-iam”! (-no = nós & -lo = para começarmos a comer) Também não é uma construção habitual.

  • Obrigado pela sua resposta. Então a tradução da frase “Eles dir-no-lo-iam”! em inglês seria “They would say it to us”?
    Como o senhor sabe, sou alemão e sinto-me como caminhante entre três mundos línguísticos. Não é pêra doce. (Não sei se posso dizer isso).
    Cumprimentos
    Manfred

    • De nada, Manfred! Exato, a tradução inglesa seria essa 🙂 (“Não é pêra doce” está correto e muito bem aplicado. Ah, e podes tratar-me por tu)

  • Olá

    I have seen the conjugation for the conditional online (perhaps an issue with finding mainly BP vs EP, ex. coojugator.com) with a different ending for vós/vocês (ending in “íeis”) rather than being the same as the third person plural. How does this potential mix-up between BP and EP affect other tenses/endings with the 2PP & 3PP?

    Love the videos!

    Obrigado
    Rick

  • I’ve read on a few sites that using the imperfect past in place of the conditional is accepted in casual speech, as you said. However, teachers on Estudo em Casa explicitly teach the use of the imperfect with the imperfect subjunctive and make no mention of this use being casual. How incorrect is it? If I were to go on a job interview, should I make sure not to use it? Would it be better to avoid it altogether and just use the conditional? Thank you!

    • Well, this is an aspect where Portuguese is evolving towards simplification, and so, you’ll find more and more people using the imperfect in place of the conditional in any context, including job interviews – it should not be a deal breaker at all, unless you’re applying for a writer/editor position, maybe 🙂 I’m far from being an authority on this, but I would say it’s (still) not ideal to teach it as if it were the standard, but it’s fine to acknowledge it as an alternative, especially in casual contexts.

  • Thank you all for this very clear explanation of the Conditional in combination with the Subjunctive and Personal Infinitive tenses.

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