Lesson 14: Introduction to the subjunctive mood in Russian

In this lesson we’re going to cover the subjunctive mood, also known as the conditional mood. The subjunctive mood designates actions that “would” or “would have” happened.

For more information go here for the subjunctive mood page in our Russian grammar resources.

Formation of the subjunctive mood

To form the subjunctive mood add the particle “бы” (sometimes contracted to “б”) to the past tense verb form.

For example:

  • он хотел бы = he would like
  • она хотела бы = she would like
  • оно хотело бы = it would like
  • они хотели бы = they would like

Uses of the subjunctive mood

Conditional statements using “если”

The subjunctive mood with “если” has the meaning, “if…would….” The particle “бы” is used in both clauses of the sentence.

  • Если бы у меня было достаточно времени, я бы начал изучать русский язык. = If I had enough time I would start learning Russian.
  • Если я не был бы болен, я бы пошёл. = If I weren’t sick I would go.
  • Если бы вы надели пальто, вам не было бы холодно. = If you had put on a coat you wouldn’t be cold.
  • Если ты бы пошёл в кинотеатр, я бы пошёл с тобой. = If you went to the cinema, I would go with you.

Describing desired or possible actions

  • Я бы поехал в Италию. Там интересная история. = I would go to Italy. There’s interesting history there.
  • Я хотел бы купить эту футболку. = I would like to buy this t-shirt.

Polite requests

  • Я хотел бы стакан молока. = I would like a glass of milk.
  • Не могли бы вы принести мне эту книгу? = Could you bring me this book? (this is ultra polite)
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