The use of the conditional form to “manipulate” Italians

You all know what the conditional verb form is, right? It’s a verb form usually used to indicate an event or situation that happens only if a prior condition occurs. For example, “I would gladly go to the party if you came with me” or “I would buy that dress if there was a discount”. In Italian, however, there is also a form that is a sly use of the conditional: it is often used as a way to get what we want from others. A sort of manipulation where the other person is in some way forced to indulge us so as not to appear rude or unkind. And who wants to be considered rude?


To become crafty and see your requests kindly granted you should learn the art of the manipulative use of the conditional. It could turn out to be very useful in Italy! Here are a few examples: “Mi passeresti il sale?” (Would you pass me the salt?), “Saresti così gentile da scansarti?” (Would you be so kind to move aside?), “Ti andrebbe di passare in farmacia al posto mio?” (Would you care to go to the pharmacy for me?), “Si potrebbe avere uno sconto sul vestito?” (Would it be possible to have a discount on the dress?), “Verresti alla festa con me?” (Would you come to the party with me?), “Si potrebbe avere una pizza a portar via?” (Would it be possible to have a take away pizza?), “Mi presteresti la tua macchina domenica?” (Would you lend me your car on Sunday?), and we could go on and on with various examples. Who would dare to say no to requests made this way (through rhetorical locutions), put with such sly delicacy? One would appear as really unpleasant by responding negatively. With a little practice you too will learn this fine art of the manipulatory use of the conditional.


Another formula that you could use, however, is the rhetorical “ti dispiace” (Do you mind). For example: “Ti dispiace passarmi il sale?” (Do you mind passing the salt?), how could the other person answer “Yes, I do mind, and absolutely will not pass it to you”. It would be really rude and impolite! Or “ti dispiacerebbe spiegarti meglio?” (Would you mind explaining yourself better?), “ti dispiace se passo domani da te?” (Do you mind if I drop by tomorrow?). Just as before, these are also formulas of courtesy to ask for something to an interlocutor that is in this way “cornered”, or ways to mitigate a command or a statement. Undoubtedly, a very effective trick.

Did you already know these ways of using the conditional and the “Ti dispiace”? Will you make them yours so as to manipulate conversations to your advantage?

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