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The conditional in French

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Conditional in French

INDEX OF CONTENTS

  • General rule
  • When it’s used?
  • The conditional is also used in French
  • How to conjugate French verbs in the conditional?
  • Use with “if” (hypothesis) + time agreement
  • Past conditional

The conditional can be used as a tense or as a mode . In the first case, it allows to express the future in the past. In the second case, it expresses the contingency, the imaginary (a future action whose performance is not certain because it is subject to a condition).

Learn the rules for using and conjugating the conditional in French thanks to our simple and clear explanations accompanied by examples and practice its correct use with our exercises! It will be very useful if you take an official exam !

General rule

Radical du futur simple + terminaisons de l’imparfait

Parler (1st group)

Finir (2nd group)

Dire (3rd group)

Je parlerais

I would speak

 

Tu parlerais

You would speak

 

Il / Elle parlerait

He / she would speak

 

Nous parlerions

We would talk

 

Vous parleriez

you would talk

 

Ils / Elles parleraient

They would talk

 

Je finirais

I would finish

 

Tu will finish

You would end

 

Il / Elle finirait

He / she would end

 

Nous finirions

We would end

 

Vous finiriez

You would finish

 

Ils / Elles finiraient

They / they would finish

Je dirais

I would say

 

u dirais

you would say

 

Il / Elle dirait

He / she would say

 

Nous dirions

We would say

 

Vous diriez

You would say

 

Ils / Elles diraient

They would say

When it’s used?

The conditional form is what we use when we say things like ‘I would like to…. “Or” It could be … “or” He would buy me … “. This form serves to express many things:

Courtesy (La politesse):

  • Je voudrais vous parler.

I would like to talk to you.

I wish (A souhait):

  •  J’aimerais faire le tour du monde.

I would like to travel the world.

Probability (Une probabilité):

  • A cause des grèves, le train pourrait avoir du retard.

Due to the strikes, the train could be late.

A complaint or protest (Une protest):

  • Tu pourrais faire attention!

You should be careful!

A future in the past:

  •  Il m’a dit qu’il ne viendrait pas.

He told me he would not come.

An event subject to a condition or hypothesis:

  • Si j’avais beaucoup d’argent, je m’achèterais une Ferrari.

If I had a lot of money, I would buy a Ferrari.

A fiction (Une fiction):

  • Moi, je serais la reine, et toi, tu serais le roi.

I would be the queen and you the king.

The  conditional is also used in French

 As an expression of a wish, possibility or hypothesis in the present or future (present conditional) and in the past (past conditional).

Example:

  • Michel aimerait être in holidays.

Michel would like to be on vacation.

The conditional tense expresses the future in the past.

Example:

  • Michel a pensé qu’il pouvait partir en voyage..

Michel thought he could go on a trip.

Use in hypothetical sentences.

Example:

  • Si vous alliez aux Caraïbes, vous pourriez aller à la plage tous les jours.

If you went to the Caribbean, you could go to the beach every day.

Polite formula in a questioning way.

Example:

  • Michel, pourriez-vous venir au conseil?

Michel, could you come to the board?

How to conjugate French verbs in the conditional?

The present conditional is formed from the future radical to which we add the imperfect endings.

Personne

Groupe en -er

Groupe en -ir

Groupe en -re

1e personne du singulier j’aimerais je finirais je vendrais
2e personne du singulier tu aimerais tu finirais tu vendrais
3e personne du singulier il/elle/on aimerait il/elle/on finirait il/elle/on vendrait
1re personne du pluriel nous aimerions nous finirions nous vendrions
2e personne du pluriel vous aimeriez vous finiriez vous vendriez
3e personne du pluriel ils/elles aimeraient ils/elles finiraient ils/elles vendraien

Use with “if” (hypothesis) + time agreement .

In certain situations, the conditional is imposed by the principle of time agreement , in particular, it is found in the building with “if” in the subordinate clause.

Example:

  • si tu travaillais, tu obtiendrais de bons résultats.

if it worked, it would get good results.

If the verb of the subordinate that expresses a hypothesis and introduced by “if” is imperfect, the verb of the principal must necessarily be in the present conditional.

Conditional or future?

In some situations, it is difficult to determine if the verb is in the future or in the conditional . This is particularly the case with the first person singular. In fact, in this form, the conditional and the future are pronounced the same way.

Example: futur: j’aimerai, conditionnel: j’aimerais.  The only difference is in the writing, the pronunciation is the same.

To determine the difference , it is necessary to establish whether the action is future or hypothetical.

For a native French speaker, it is also possible to switch people to determine which one is correct. Example: futur: tu aimeras, conditionnel: tu future aimerais : you will like it, conditional: you will like it.

Past conditional

Etre / avoir in present conditional + participle

Example of the verb “manger” (to eat)

Conjugation

Meaning

j’aurais mangé I would have eaten
tu aurais mangé you would have eaten
il aurait mangé he would have eaten
nous aurions mangé we will have eaten
vous auriez mangé you will have eaten
ils auraient mangé they would have eaten

Concordance : verbs that use the auxiliary “être” have to adapt the participle in gender and number to the subject.

Conjugation

Meaning

il serais allé he would have gone
elle serais allée she would have gone
ils seraient allés they would have gone
elles seraient allées they would have gone
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