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Il periodo ipotetico – hypothetical phrases Posted by on Sep 3, 2021 in Italian Language

Il periodo ipotetico 

Last week I proposed a new challenge for you covering the periodo ipotetico which are hypothetical phrases. There are three types, real, probable, and improbable.

Typically these clauses are introduced by se (if) but also could be introduced by phrases such as nel caso che (in the case that), or qualora (so far as).

Here are some of the answers from last weeks challenge: 

Se costa troppo non lo compro.
If it’s too expensive, I will not buy it.

Se avessi i soldi, viaggerei più spesso.
If I had the money, I would travel more.

Se non capisci, te lo spiego di nuovo.
If you don’t understand, I will explain it again

Se fossi nato in Italia, parlerei italiano.
If I was born in Italy, I would speak Italian

Se fossi uscito in tempo, non avresti fatto tardi.
If you had left on time, you wouldn’t have been late

Se fossi un animale, quale vorresti essere?
If you were an animal, which one would you be?

Se fossi ricco, comprerei una casa a New York.
If I was rich, I’d buy a house in New York

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In the examples above we can see all three types of il periodo ipotetico: real, probable, and improbable.

Real (1st conditional) 

This 1st Conditional example of il periodo ipotetico is used to discuss something which is happening in the present or will take place very soon in the future. These things will happen, or have a high chance of happening.

Here are the possible 1st conditional sentences, depending upon the time:

Present simple + present simple 

Se costa troppo non lo compro.
If it’s too expensive, I will not buy it.

Present simple + future simple 

Se non studi, non riuscirai.

If you don’t study, you will not succeed.

Future simple + future simple

Se non pioverà, giocheremo. 

If it does not rain, we will play.

Probable (2nd conditional)

The 2nd conditional is a probable hypothesis. The situations are unreal at the time, but could happen even if it’s unlikely.

Imperfect subjunctive + present conditional

Se avessi i soldi, viaggerei più spesso.
If I had the money, I would travel more.

Improbable (3rd conditional)

This periodo ipotetico dell’irrealtà (unreal conditional clause) is used to express the impossibility of something, because we already know it didn’t happen (and there’s no chance to go back in time and change it) or because the circumstances are impossible.

Imperfect subjunctive + present conditional 

Se fossi nato in Italia, parlerei italiano.
If I was born in Italy, I would speak Italian

Pluperfect subjunctive + past conditional

Se fossi uscito in tempo, non avresti fatto tardi.
If you had left on time, you wouldn’t have been late

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If you are having trouble with this, just know that native Italian speakers also make mistakes. A common mistake is to utilize the present conditional  tense both in the subordinate clause and in the main clause, so avoid this mistake!

Se potrei, studierei.

Se potessi, studierei. ✅ (use the present subjunctive!)

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About the Author: Bridgette

Just your average Irish-American Italo-Francophone. Client Engagement for Transparent Language. Wannabe Digital Nomad.


Comments:

  1. Rosanna McFarlin:

    Lezione spiegata con intelligenza . Congrats.

  2. Roberto:

    Should not the English be “if I were born in Italy (subjunctive)?

  3. Ken:

    Isn’t your first example under improbable pluperfect? (fossi nato vs nascessi)


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