Making polite requests: the polite conditional

We use the conditional to make requests or issue orders politely. This very often involves using the verbs volere (to want to) and potere (to be able to):

Vorrei un gelato al cioccolato.

I would like a chocolate ice cream.

Potresti aiutarmi a preparare la cena?

Could you help me to prepare dinner?

Here is the full conjugation of the verb:

Io vorrei
Tu vorresti
Lui/lei vorrebbe
Noi vorremmo
Voi vorreste
Loro vorrebbero
Io potrei
Tu potresti
Lui/lei potrebbe
Noi potremmo
Voi potreste
Loro potrebbero

There are other verbs that we sometimes use to make polite requests, such as avere (to have), essere (to be), piacere (to like), desiderare (to want), riuscire (to be able to).

Avresti tempo di aiutarmi? avere, condizionale presente

Would you have time to help me?

Saresti disponibile dalle 5 alle 6? essere, condizionale presente

Would you be available between 5 and 6?

Note: using the verb volere (to want to) in the first-person present tense (voglio, “I want”) sounds authoritative and ill-mannered.

Vorrei una fetta di torta (gentile) VS Voglio una fetta di torta (ordine)

I would like a slice of cake (polite) v. I want a slice of cake (order)

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