How to use the Past Conditional in Italian

Last week we took a look at the present conditional, which, if you missed it, you can find HERE. Today we are going to look at il condizionale passato (the past conditional). Here are a couple of examples of how we conjugate it, firstly with the auxiliary verb essere (to be):

Coniugazione del verbo essere: Conjugation of the verb to be:
io sarei stato/a
tu saresti stato/a
lui sarebbe stato
lei sarebbe stata
noi saremmo stati/e
voi sareste stati/e
loro sarebbero stati/e
I would have been
you would have been (sing, inf.)
he would have been
she would have been
we would have been
you would have been (plural)
they would have been

This second example is built with the auxiliary verb avere (to have):

Coniugazione del verbo avere: Conjugation of the verb to have:
io avrei avuto
tu avresti avuto
lui/lei avrebbe avuto
noi avremmo avuto
voi avreste avuto
loro avrebbero avuto
I would have had
you would have had (sing, inf.)
he/she would have had
we would have had
you would have had (plural)
they would have had

The past conditional is used:

1. to express a regret:
avrei dovuto seguire il consiglio di mio padre! = I should have followed my father’s advice!
sarebbe stato meglio partire ieri = it would have been better to leave yesterday
me lo sarei dovuto immaginare! = I should have imagined that/it!

2. to express disbelief, incredulity:
chi l’avrebbe mai detto! = who would ever have thought it! (literally: who would have ever said it!)
l’avresti pensato che era così antipatico? = would you have thought that he he could be so unfriendly? (literally: that he was so unfriendly)
chi l’avrebbe mai immaginato che la torre di Pisa pendeva così tanto!
= who would ever  have imagined that the tower of Pisa leaned so much?

La Torre di Pisa. Photo: (CC) by Maxime Guilbot

3. to report a piece of news that has not been verified, or that we have doubts about:
la notizia sarebbe stata diffusa di proposito dalla polizia = it is thought that the news has been spread by the police on purpose (literally: the news would have been spread)
secondo i giornali il presidente della società avrebbe presentato le dimissioni
= according to newspapers the president of the society has handed in his resignations (literally: would have handed in)
alcune fonti internazionali riferiscono che ci sarebbe stato un colpo di stato in Antartide = some international fonts report that there has been a coupe in the Antarctic (literally: there would have been a coupe)

4. to say what we would have done if the conditions had been different:
se fossimo stati più ricchi avremmo comprato una casa al mare in Liguria = if we had been richer we would have bought a house on the coast in Liguria
se avessi avuto più tempo a Venezia, mi sarebbe piaciuto visitare anche l’isola di Torcello = If I had had more time in Venice, I would have liked to have visited the island of Torcello as well
se ieri non avesse piovuto il bucato si sarebbe asciugato completamente = if it hadn’t rained yesterday the washing would have dried completely

Torcello. Photo: (CC) by John W. Schulze

5. to express the future in the past:
Maria mi ha detto che oggi sarebbe andata a Sarzana = Maria told me that she would go to Sarzana today (literally: today she would have gone to Sarzana)
non immaginavo che ci sarebbe voluto così tanto tempo = I didn’t imagine that it would take such a long time (literally: it would have taken)
ho chiesto a Giorgio quando sarebbe tornato da New York = I asked Giorgio when he would come back from New York (literally: when he would have come back)

As usual, if you have any questions please leave a comment.


Advanced Spanish Review Lesson 20 Palabras que comienzan por a tónica

¡Hola! ¿Qué tal?

Hoy vamos a practicar las palabras que comienzan por “a” tónica.

Al final de este post encontrarás las respuestas a todas las preguntas de esta lección y puedes seguir el enlace de este post para ver el vídeo teórico original sobre el mismo tema.

To go back and watch the original video lesson please follow this link:

Advanced theory video lesson 20

Click here to view the embedded video.

1. Te voy a decir unas palabras y tienes que poner delante de ellas el artículo “el” o “la”. Por ejemplo, si digo “casa” tienes que decir “la casa”:


2. Ahora tienes que hacer lo mismo con estas palabras precedidas por adjectivo, pero usando “un” o “una”. Por ejemplo, si digo “gran casa” tienes que decir “una gran casa”:

Ordenada aula
Buena amiga
Bonita ardilla
Sabrosa almendra
Gran águila
Preciosa alfombra
Creciente hambre
Cómoda almohada
Cristalina agua
Gran hacha

3. Por último, dime si estas palabras son masculinas o femeninas:


Bueno, pues esto es todo por hoy.

El género de los sustantivos es algo que se ve en nivel principiante, pero no es fácil de recordar. Como véis existen varias excepciones, así que tened paciencia y no os preocupéis si cometeis errores con el género. Los hispanohablantes os comprenderán perfectamente aunque lo digáis mal. ¡Lo más importante es practicar!

Nos vemos la semana que viene,


I hope you are enjoying my weekly interactive Spanish lessons. Follow this link for many more great resources to help you learn and practice Spanish.


El aula
La amiga
La ardilla
La almendra
El águila
La alfombra
El alma
El hambre
La almohada
La azada
El área
El agua
El hacha

Una ordenada aula
Una buena amiga
Una bonita ardilla
Una sabrosa almendra
Una gran águila
Una preciosa alfombra
Una creciente hambre
Una cómoda almohada
Una cristalina agua
Una gran hacha

Agua – femenina
Día – masculina
Hacha – femenina
Área – femenina
Problema – masculina
Tema – masculina
Arma – femenina
Alma – femenina
Idioma – masculina
Sistema – masculina
Hambre – femenina
Fantasma – masculina
Programa – masculina


Google Earth: Visit France from the Comfort of Your Home

Image by planetearth112 on Flickr

Image by planetearth112 on Flickr

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”  —Saint Augustine

Reading and learning about France is one thing. Visiting the country is something entirely different. Exploring distant lands and experiencing cultures firsthand is undoubtedly one of life’s most rewarding experiences. You may have a fear of flying or you may never have had the funds to take an international trip. Fear not! Thanks to technology vous pouvez voyager sans quitter votre domicile (you can travel without leaving home)!

Imagine for a moment walking through the streets of Paris. Imagine standing in front of the Eiffel Tower and looking up as if you were literally standing in front of it. Or imagine walking up the Avenue des Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe. All of this is made possible with Google Earth, a computer application that lets you can cross the pond to take a virtual walk sur les boulevards de Paris (on the boulevards of Paris). You don’t have to deal with traffic, nor do you have to ask for directions if you get lost. It’s one thing to view the city from above but the real fun begins when you enter Street View. With a simple click of the mouse in any direction, you can experience what it would be like walking up and down practically any street in the city. And best of all, c’est absolument gratuit (it’s absolutely free)! If you want to visit a museum or enter any building, of course you’ll have to travel to Paris. But Google Earth is quite possibly the next best thing to being there in the flesh et c’est bien moins cher (and it’s much less expensive).

Not interested in Paris? Why not visit London, Rome, Berlin or any other city for that matter? Thankfully, Google Earth isn’t limited to major cities. In fact, I took some time recently to visit les petites villes (the little towns) where I spent my childhood in southern France. I was overcome by a strong sense of nostalgie (nostalgia) as I stood in front of les maisons de mon enfance (my childhood homes) and retraced my daily walk to school and back. I was surprised that Google had taken the time to travel the streets of these small towns but I’m grateful for their efforts.

So how do you access Google Earth? Visit this link and download the free application to your hard drive. Le logiciel (the software) is available for both Mac or PC and there are versions of the app for your mobile devices on iOS and Android as well. Quad vous voulez voyager (When you want to travel), launch the application, type in a city name or specific address in the search bar at the top left corner of your écran (screen) and watch as Google pinpoints your destination with remarkable accuracy. Zoom in with the controls on the right side of your screen and then enter Street View by clicking the icon.

If you own a Mac and have updated to the latest free version of OS X (Yosemite), there is a new feature in the built-in Maps application that gives you a 3D flyover tours of major cities. Type “Paris, France” into the search bar, click on 3D Flyover Tour and sit back to enjoy the show!


La Dame Blanche (The White Lady): Mont Blanc

Image by Ken Douglas on Flickr

Image by Ken Douglas on Flickr

Bonjour mes amis! (Hello my friends!)

I thought it might be interesting to study un peu de Géographie (a little Geography). Histoire/Géographie (History/Geography) was a combined course in French schools and part of the standard curriculum in the early 1990s. Students would call it Histoire/Géo for short and I clearly remember the green cahier (notebook) dedicated to the class. It was one of my favorite classes in 6ème and 5ème (6th and 7th grades, respectively) and one that ignited a passion for History (and to a lesser extent Geography) that I still harbor to this day.

If you happen to be a Francophile like me, you probably have heard of Mont Blanc (White Mountain), the highest peak in the Alps and coincidentally, the tallest summit in the European Union. Mont Blanc is part of the Massif du Mont Blanc, a mountain range in the Graian Alps that covers part of Italy, France (part of the Rhône-Alpes region) and Switzerland.

Ever since la première ascension (the first ascent) in 1786 by Jacques Balmat and Michel-Gabriel Paccard, Mont Blanc has remained one of the most popular go-to destinations for those hardy souls who enjoy l’alpinisme (mountaineering) and l’escalade (rock climbing). Attempting to climb Mont Blanc is neither for the faint of heart nor for those who suffer from le vertige (vertigo/dizziness). Reaching an altitude of 4,810 m (15,781 ft), the mountain can be very unforgiving, as evidenced par la mort (by the death) of seven climbers in the summer of 2014 alone. A sad affair indeed, however, for those who reach le sommet (the summit) the view is breathtaking as you can imagine (and measures only 30 m in length).

Mont Blanc became internationally renown as the site of the first Jeux Olympiques d’hiver (winter Olympics) in 1924. Hosted in Chamonix, a small ski resort on the north side of the mountain, Mont Blanc went from being a regular ski destination for locals in the early 20th century to becoming a world renown resort for more extreme sports such as ice climbing, paragliding, Wingsuit flying and extreme skiing.

Should you ever have a chance to visit the Alps, whether in Italy, France or Switzerland, consider taking a detour to visit la Dame Blanche (the White Lady). Both beautiful and deadly, she inspires a sense of awe and wonder that reminds us just how small and finite we really are.


How to use the Present Conditional in Italian

While I was replying a reader’s question last week about the differences between the congiuntivo presente and the condizionale, I realised that although I’ve covered the use of the congiuntivo presente I’d never written an article specifically on the use of the condizionale (conditional). So I’m going to make amends, beginning today with il condizionale presente (the present conditional). But first let’s have a look at how we conjugate it:

Coniugazione del verbo essere: Conjugation of the verb to be:
io sarei
tu saresti
lui/lei sarebbe
noi saremmo
voi sareste
loro sarebbero
I would be
you would be (singular, informal)
he/she would be
we would be
you would be (plural)
they would be

The present conditional is used:

1. to politely express a wish or a request:
vorrei un bicchiere d’acqua, per piacere = I would like a glass of water, please
mi potresti prestare una penna? = could you lend me a pen?
scusi, saprebbe dirmi dov’è Piazza del Duomo? = excuse me, could you tell me where Piazza del Duomo is? (literally: … would you know how to tell me …)

Medievalis part 2 073
Piazza del Duomo, Pontremoli. Photo by Geoff Chamberlain

2. to express a personal opinion, or to give advice:
secondo me dovresti andare dal dottore = in my opinion you should go to the doctor
io suggerirei di partire subito dopo pranzo = I would suggest that we leave immediately after lunch
sarebbe meglio se Marco rimandasse la partenza di qualche giorno = it would be better if Marco delayed his departure for a few days

3. to report a piece of news that has not been verified, or that we have doubts about:
secondo alcuni testimoni i rapinatori sarebbero ancora all’interno della banca = according to some witnesses the robbers are still inside the bank (literally: … the robbers would still be inside the bank)
ho sentito che il presidente del club starebbe pensando di presentare le sue dimissioni = I’ve heard that the president of the club is thinking of handing in his resignations (literally: … the president of the club would be thinking of handing in his resignations)
mi è stato detto che Marco vorrebbe trasferirsi in Inghilterra = I’ve been told that Marco would like to move to England

Lig 4
… una casa al mare in Liguria. Photo by Geoff Chamberlain

4. to say what we would do if the conditions were different:
se non piovesse andrei a fare due passi = if it didn’t rain, I would go for a little stroll
se fossimo ricchi ci compreremmo una casa al mare in Liguria = if we were rich we would buy a house on the coast in Liguria
se ci fosse abbastanza basilico si potrebbe fare una pasta al pesto = if we had enough basil we could make pasta with pesto (literally: if there were enough basil, one could make pasta with pesto)

Next week I’m going to cover the past conditional. A presto!