The Conditional Tense in French

 

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The Conditional Tense in French is used in a largely similar way to that in which it is used in English.

Ø     It expresses a condition, i.e. "would" in English. The conditional clause will often be dependent upon a "si clause" (which will be in the imperfect (See note below))

 

e.g.     S'il faisait beau, j'irais à la plage avec ma famille.

        If the weather were good, I would go to the beach with my family.

        Si elle avait plus d'argent, elle sortirait plus souvent avec ses amis.

        If she had more money, she would go out with her friends more often.

        Mes parents viendraient avec nous, s'ils n'étaient pas obligés de travailler.

        My parents would come with us, if they didn't have to work.

 

Ø     It can also express a future-in-the-past:

 

e.g.     Elle a dit qu'elle partirait vers neuf heures.

        She said she would leave around nine o'clock.

 

Formation of the Conditional Tense:

 

This is easy in French. The Conditional Tense is formed by taking the FUTURE STEM of the verb, and adding the IMPERFECT ENDINGS.

 

e.g.     VENIR         =        VIENDR     +         je       ____    ais             je viendrais

                                                         tu     ____   ais              tu viendrais

                                                         il      ____  ait               il viendrait

                                                                nous   ____   ions            nous viendrions

                                                         vous  ____   iez             vous viendriez

                                                         ils     ____   aient ils viendraient

 

Tenses in Conditional Sentences:

 

As noted above, the IMPERFECT and CONDITIONAL are used together in "si clauses" in the same way as they are used in English.

         e.g.   If I won the lottery, I would buy a larger house.

                Si je gagnais à la loterie, j'achèterais une plus grande maison.

                If my friend were not on holiday, we would go to the cinema together.

                Si mon ami n'était pas en vacances, nous irions ensemble au cinéma.

 

This tense rule should be NOTED WELL as English learner of French tend to want to use the conditional in both parts of the sentence, even though this is not the case in English!

 

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