The French Conditional Tense: Learn How To Use It Effectively
Finding the French Conditional Tense hard to learn? Our quick and comprehensive guide is here to help better your understanding of the Conditional Tense! Read on to find out how to use it effectively and master it in no time.
Before we learn about how to use conditionals in French, let’s first find out exactly what they are.
What is the Conditional Tense?
Simply put, the conditional is a verb form which is used to talk about anything that could happen in the future. It is also used when talking about something that’s guaranteed to happen but only under specific circumstances.
Let’s take a look at examples in English first:
- It would cool down if you placed it in a refrigerator.
- You’d be cold without this sweater.
Note: the English modal verb “would” is conditional and is also written in its shortened form ” ‘d ” and placed before the verb.
In French however, there is a different set of rules to remember. The good news is that if you’re familiar with the Future tense, the Conditional will be a breeze!
Using the Conditional Tense in French
The conditional is used in the same instances in both French and English:
- While asking politely or formally
ie. Would you pass the newspaper, please? – Pourrais-tu me passer le journal, s’il te plaît?
- While expressing the requirement or liking for something
ie. I would love to have a cup of tea, please. – J’aimerais avoir une tasse de té, s’il vous plait.
- While suggesting something
ie. We could go to a movie and have fun. – Nous pourrions aller au ciné et nous amuser.
- While advising someone
ie. You should admit that you made a mistake. – Tu devrais admettre que tu t’es trompé
- While role-playing, imaginary or not
ie. I would be the teacher, and you would be the student. – Moi je serais le prof, et toi tu serais l’élève.
- While gently nagging or complaining
ie. You could wash the dishes instead of watching the TV. – Vous pourriez faire la vaisselle au lieu de regarder la television.
- While using “even if” or “in case of” clauses.
ie. Even if you have 20 bucks, you’d be able to buy some candies. – Meme si tu avais 20 euros, tu pourrais acheter des bonbons.
The video below is a great way to learn more about the French conditional tense:
Forming the Conditional Tense: the key rules
Usually, when verbs are in their conditional form they are comprised of an infinitive (used as the stem) + an ending.
The stem used in the conditional is the same as the one used in the future tense, which is the infinitive form of the verb. The conditional uses the following endings: -ais, -ais, -ait, -ions, -iez and -aient. If you’re familiar with the Imperfect tense in French, you’ll notice the endings are the same.
1. Regular verbs with -er and -ir endings:
Here, we’re using the same verb stem as the future tense (ie. the verb’s infinitive form) and adding the right ending to it. Let’s take a closer look with some examples:
|Subject||Ending||-er verbs||-ir verbs|
Note: When a regular -er verb ends either in -eler or –eter, the consonants “l” and “t” are doubled. This rule has some exceptions such as geler (to freeze), peler (to peel) and acheter (to buy).
Let’s have a look at the verb appeler (to call)
|Pronoun||Example verb: appeler|
In the case of verbs ending in -yer, the “y” changes to “i”.
|Pronoun||Example verb: nettoyer|
2. Rules for irregular verbs in the conditional
The irregular verbs are the same in the conditional tense as they are in the future tense: this includes verbs such as être, faire, aller, devoir, pouvoir, savoir, tenir, venir, voir, vouloir.
Here are some examples of what these irregular verbs look like in their conditional form:
|Infinitive||Future stem||Conditional endings||Conditional form|
|avoir||aur-||-ais, -ais, -ait, -ions, -iez, -aient||j’aurais, tu aurais, il/elle/on aurait, nous aurions, vous auriez, ils/elles auraient|
|être||ser-||-ais, -ais, -ait, -ions, -iez, -aient||je serais, tu serais, il/elle/on serait, nous serions, vous seriez, ils/elles seraient|
|faire||fer-||-ais, -ais, -ait, -ions, -iez, -aient||je ferais, tu ferais, il/elle/on ferait, nous ferions, vous feriez, ils/elles feraient|
|aller||ir-||-ais, -ais, -ait, -ions, -iez, -aient||j’irais, tu irais, il/elle/on irait, nous irions, vous iriez, ils/elles iraient|
- The conditional endings are -ais, -ais, -ait, -ions, -iez, and –aient (same as the imperfect endings)
- The conditional stem is the same as the future tense stem
- Regular -er and -ir are formed with: Stem+ appropriate ending.
- Irregular verbs are the same in the conditional tense as they are in the future tense
And that brings us to the end of our lesson on the conditional tense in French! Why not try our quiz below to put what you’ve learnt today to the test?
See you next lesson – and in the meantime, don’t forget to practice! If you need any help don’t hesitate to get into contact with one of our French tutors.