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Should, Could, Would ? – part 2 Posted by on Aug 31, 2010 in Grammar

I wrote the first part of this blog in reply to a question from Jeannet about the use of the conditional: https://blogs.transparent.com/italian/should-could-would/

Here is another reader’s question that follows the same theme. I think that once again the reply will be useful to share with everyone:

Hi Serena,

My name is Ureder and I’m a Spanish teacher who is learning Italian. I follow your blog quite regularly and it has helped me to understand the Italian grammar better.

I would appreciate if you could translate the following sentences into Italian. I think in some of these examples the Spanish translation is more similar to the English sentence than the Italian translation. That’s why I sometimes get confused with ‘il condizionale’.

1. a) […], I would have more money.
1. b) […], I would have had more money.
1. c) […], I would be richer.
1. d) […], I would have been richer.

2. a) […], I could have more money.
2. b) […], I could have had more money.
2. c) […], I could be richer.
2. d) […], I could have been richer.

3. a) […], I should (or I would have to) have more money.
3. b) […], I should (or I would have to) have had more money.
3. c) […], I should (or I would have to) be richer.
3. d) […], I should (or I would have to) have been richer.

4. a) […], I would like to have more money.
4. b) […], I would have liked to have (or to have had) more money.
4. c) […], I would like to be richer.
4. d) […], I would have liked to be (or to have been) richer.

Grazie mille!

Allora, andiamo avanti …

1  
I would have more money. avrei più soldi
I would have had more money avrei avuto più soldi
I would be richer sarei più ricca/o
I would have been richer sarei stata/o più ricca/o

 

2
I could have more money potrei avere più soldi
I could have had more money avrei potuto avere più soldi
I could be richer potrei essere più ricca/o
I could have been richer sarei potuta/o essere più ricca/o

 

3  
I should have more money dovrei avere più soldi
I should have had more money avrei dovuto avere più soldi
I should be richer dovrei essere più ricca/o
I should have been richer sarei dovuta/o essere più ricca/o 

 

4  
I would like to have more money mi piacerebbe avere più soldi
I would have liked to have more money mi sarebbe piaciuto avere più soldi
I would like to be richer mi piacerebbe essere più ricca/o
I would have liked to be richer mi sarebbe piaciuto essere più ricca/o

 

N.B. as I mentioned in part one, in colloquial Italian we often use avrei instead of sarei when speaking in the conditional, e.g.:

I could have been richer sarei potuta/o essere più ricca/o
avrei
potuto essere più ricca/o
I should have been richer sarei dovuta/o essere più ricca/o 
avrei dovuto essere più ricca/o 

You will also notice that because we use essere with ricco i.e. ‘to be rich’, the past participle changes gender and number accordingly e.g.:

I should have been richer (feminine)
I should have been richer (masculine)
we should have been richer (masculine plural)
sarei dovuta essere più ricca
sarei dovuto essere più ricco

saremmo dovuti essere più ricchi

I would be interested to hear from Ureder (who posted this question) whether the conditional is more, or less complicated in Spanish. It’s hard to imagine that it could be more difficult than the Italian!

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Comments:

  1. Noel:

    Hi Serena,

    I translated the first part of this blog without first looking at your reply and I’m glad to say that I got them all correct except for …

    I could have been richer = sarei potuta/o essere più ricca/o

    and here I had put … potevo essere più ricco

    Is this wrong or is it conveying a different meaning? I’d be glad of your clarification.

    • serena:

      @Noel Salve Noel, bravo, you are perfectly correct to use ‘potevo essere’ instead of ‘sarei potuto essere’, because even though it is technically incorrect we use it a lot in colloquial Italian. You can follow the same rule with ‘dovere’ and ‘volere’, e.g. instead of saying ‘avrei voluto fare una vacanza’ you could say ‘volevo fare una vacanza’, and so on. When I wrote the blog, I decided to only give the technically correct translations of the conditional in order not to confuse less advanced learners.

      A presto, Serena

  2. Ureder:

    Salve Serena,

    In my opinion the conditional is less complicated in Spanish. For instance, the compound tenses are formed with the verb ‘haber’ plus the past participle, which is invariable in the active voice (‘habría tenido’, ‘habría sido’, ‘podría haber tenido’, ‘podría haber sido’…).

    I have one more question. Are the following sentences correct in Italian?

    […], potrei avere avuto più soldi.
    […], potrei essere stat@ più ricc@.

    […], dovrei avere avuto più soldi.
    […], dovrei essere stat@ più ricc@.

    […], mi piacerebbe avere avuto più soldi.
    […], mi piacerebbe essere stat@ più ricc@.

    Grazie mille,

    Ureder

    • serena:

      @Ureder Salve Ureder, re. your question “Are the following sentences correct in Italian?”

      […], potrei avere avuto più soldi.
      […], potrei essere stata più ricca.

      […], dovrei avere avuto più soldi.
      […], dovrei essere stata più ricca.

      […], mi piacerebbe avere avuto più soldi.
      […], mi piacerebbe essere stata più ricca

      Well, life would be a lot simpler if those sentences were correct, but unfortunately they aren’t. This is a difficulty with the conditional, as you can see in my blog ‘Should Could Would part 2’ the constructions in these cases are inverted and don’t coincide with what you would expect when translating from English, e.g.
      ‘I could have more money’ = ‘potrei avere più soldi’ This is correct, and is the same as the English construction.
      ‘I could have had more money’ = ‘avrei potuto avere più soldi’ .This is correct, but it doesn’t follow the English construction which literally translated would be ‘potrei avere avuto più soldi’ which, unfortunately, is incorrect. The same rule applies to ‘dovere’.
      ‘Piacere’, unfortunately, is even more complicated. Your example ‘mi piacerebbe avere avuto più soldi’ would mean ‘it would please me to have had more money’ rather than ‘I would have liked to have more money’ (mi sarebbe piaciuto avere più soldi). Piacerebbe is the present conditional, e.g. ‘mi piacerebbe andare a Firenze domani’ (I would like to go to Firenze tomorrow). ‘Mi sarebbe piacuto andare a Firenze ieri’, on the other hand, would mean ‘I would like to have gone to Firenze yesterday’.

      Ti chiedo scusa, siamo italiani, no?
      Saluti da Serena

  3. Jeannet:

    Salve Serena,

    As always very useful your grammar blog,
    grazie mille.

    Jeannet

  4. andreas:

    Salve Serena!
    Grazie per il blog. Si’ la grammatica spagnola e’ piu’ facile: c’e’ meno forme, ma l’uso di condizionale e’ un po’ differente. Si usano codizionale semplice e composto per il futuro nel passato. E anche si usa attivavente il tempo corrispondente al passato remoto, ma si usa come the past simple nell’inglese.
    Andreas

  5. Jaslyn:

    Both great posts on this wonderful subject. I am so thankful to have finally found someone with the patience to explain it thoroughly as I have been going around in circles with the Verbi servili conditional past tense for a while now. I “spoke” to myself all the way to town to day… and arrived with a smile.

    • Geoff:

      @Jaslyn Salve Jaslyn,
      Grazie per i complimenti. Mi fa sempre piacere aiutare i lettori a capire la lingua e la grammatica italiana.
      Saluti da Serena


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