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Italian “Periodo ipotetico”: Hypothetical phrases

The Italian “periodo ipotetico” (conditional clauses or hypothetical phrases) is a structure composed of two clauses. The dependent one is introduced by “SE” and it indicates the condition (or supposition) on which something else is the main (the other clause).

To use the hypothetical phrases you have to know: indicative mood (present and future tense); the imperative; the present and past conditional; the imperfect and past perfect subjunctive.

  • The easier “periodo ipotetico” is used to talk about something that is possible or really probable and it uses indicative + indicative mood, or indicative + imperative mood:


– CONDITION: Se il tempo è/sarà bello = If the weather is/will be good
– CONSEQUENCE: faremo la festa in giardino = we will have the party in the garden


– CONDITION: Se hai fame = if you are hungry
– CONSEQUENCE: mangia qualcosa! = eat something!


  • The most common Italian “periodo ipotetico” is used to talk about something that might happen or to talk about conditions very improbable (but possible). These phrases have the imperfect subjunctive in the conditional sentences and present conditional mood in the consequent sentences:
– CONDITION: Se fossi ricco = If I were rich
– CONSEQUENCE: mi comprerei un appartamento a Parigi= I would buy an apartment in Paris


– CONSEQUENCE: Comprerei quella macchina = I would buy that car
– CONDITION: se non fosse così costosa = if it wasn’t so expensive


  • When the condition is impossible or unreal (because it’s in the past) and the consequence refers to the past we need the past perfect subjunctive + past conditional:
– CONDITION: Se l’avessi saputo = If I had known it
– CONSEQUENCE: l’avrei aiutato = I would have helped him


Or when the condition refers to the past but the consequence is in the present or future, we use the past perfect subjunctive + present conditional:


– CONDITION: Se fossi andato in Italia = If I had gone to Italy
– CONSEQUENCE: ora parlerei italiano = I would speak Italian today


If the condition refers to the present (or future) and the consequences is in the past we use the imperfect subjunctive + past conditional:ast we use the imperfect subjunctive + past conditional:

– CONDITION: Se lui l’amasse veramente = If he really loved her
– CONSEQUENCE: Ieri sera non l’avrebbe tradita = he would not have been unfaithful to her, yesterday evening


7 Responses to “Italian “Periodo ipotetico”: Hypothetical phrases”

  1. […] by Monica Corrias on May 18, 2008 The Italian “periodo ipotetico” (conditional clauses or hypothetical phrases) is the last lesson that I […]

  2. […] you can see here is the Italian present continuous + simple present tense and second conditional (= Italian periodo ipotetico di secondo […]

  3. Andy said

    Thanks Monica!
    Your explanation is the most straight-to-the-point one, the best I’ve seen. It’s the matter itself that makes it so, so complicated. “Se fossi notato in Italia!” :)))

  4. Monica said

    già, se fossi nato in Italia … tutto sarebbe stato più semplice 🙂
    Buona giornata.

  5. latilen said

    THANK YOU VERY MUCH!! It help me a lot ;]

  6. Praveen Boby said

    E’ molto importante per me perche’ posso imprare molte cose…..

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