• French GrammarFrench Lessons

    How to Use Conditionals in French: Basic rules

    Knowingly or unknowingly, we use conditionals in our daily speech way more than we expect. Just like English Language, conditionals are used in French as well.

    , How to Use Conditionals in French: Basic rules
    By Sami
    3 weeks ago
    , How to Use Conditionals in French: Basic rules

    French Grammar French Lessons

    How to Use Conditionals in French: Basic rules

Before we learn about using conditionals in French, let us first know what they are?

What are conditionals?

Simply put, conditional is a form of the verb which is used to talk about anything that could happen under specific conditions. It is also used for talking about conditions that are guaranteed to happen but may happen when the circumstances are specific.

The English word “would,” a modal verb, is conditional. It is also written in its short form –  ‘d, added to the main verb.

For example:

  • It would cool down if you place it in a refrigerator.
  • You’d be cold without this sweater.

French, however, has a different set of rules for various kinds of verbs. For those who know how to form Future tense, using conditionals is easier.

Using conditionals in French:

In English as well as in French, conditionals are used in certain instances:

  • While asking politely or formally –  ‘Would you pass the newspaper, please.’
  • While expressing the requirement or liking for something – ‘I would love to have a cup of tea, please.’
  • While suggesting something – ‘We could go to a movie and have fun.’
  • While advising someone – ‘You should admit that you made a mistake.’
  • While role-playing, imaginary or not – ‘I would be the teacher, and you would be the student.
  • While softly nagging or complaining – ‘You could wash the dishes instead of watching the TV.
  • While using “even if” or “in case of” clauses. Even if you have 20 bucks, you’d be able to buy some candies.

Key Rules for forming the Conditional:

  • Usually, verbs, when changed to a conditional form, follow the rule, the infinitive (used as the stem) + an ending. It much like the imperfect tense: –ais, -ais, -ait, -ions, -iez, and -aient.
  • Conditionals are formed with a stem. The stem is similar to the one used as a future stem + an ending, which depends on the subject (je, tu, elle, on, nous, vous, ils, or elles).

1. Regular verbs with -er and -ir endings:

Use the same stem of future tense and add the right ending to it.

Let’s see some examples:

SubjectEnding-er verbs-ir verbs
je (j’)-aisjoueraisfinirais
tu-aisjoueraisfinirais
ilelleon-aitjoueraitfinirait
nous-ionsjouerionsfinirions
vous-iezjoueriezfiniriez
ilselles-aientjoueraientfiniraient
  • Conditional Form = FUTURE STEM + IMPERFECT TENSE ENDING • Like English, there is no particular word in French, but the ending is changed to form a conditional.

How the spelling changes for the conditional stem of regular -er verbs:

  • When the verb has consonant ‘l’ and ‘t’ and ends in -eler and –eter, the consonant gets doubled. The pronunciation of the first letter e also changes from ‘uhr’ to ‘eh’. The rule has some exceptions like geler, peler and acheter.

Example:

PronounExample verb: appeler
j’appellerais
tuappellerais
ilelleonappellerait
nousappellerions
vousappelleriez
ilsellesappelleraient
  • In case the verbs end in -yer, the y is changed to‘i’.

For example:

PronounExample verb: nettoyer
jenettoierais
tunettoierais
ilelleonnettoierait
nousnettoierions
vousnettoieriez
ilsellesnettoieraient

2. Rules for irregular verbs in the conditional

The rules for irregular stem verbs are more like the rules for the same irregular verbs in conditional. So, if you know the future tense, things will be easier for you. Some examples of such irregular verbs include être, faire, aller, devoir,pouvoir, savoir, tenir, venir, voir, vouloir, etc.

InfinitiveFuture stemConditional endingsConditional form
avoiraur--ais, -ais, -ait, -ions, -iez, -aientj’aurais, tu aurais, il/elle/on aurait, nous aurions, vous auriez, ils/elles auraient
êtreser--ais, -ais, -ait, -ions, -iez, -aientje serais, tu serais, il/elle/on serait, nous serions, vous seriez, ils/elles seraient
fairefer--ais, -ais, -ait, -ions, -iez, -aientje ferais, tu ferais, il/elle/on ferait, nous ferions, vous feriez, ils/elles feraient
allerir--ais, -ais, -ait, -ions, -iez, -aientj’irais, tu irais, il/elle/on irait, nous irions, vous iriez, ils/elles iraient

 Summary

  • The conditional endings in French are -ais, -ais, -ait, -ions, -iez, and –aient, similar to the imperfect endings.
  • The stem is the same while forming the conditional and in FUTURE TENSE.
  • The use of the endings depends on the subject- je, tu, elle, on, nous,vous, ils, or elles.
  • For regular verb with -er & -ir endings- Stem+ appropriate ending.
  • Irregular verbs for conditional and irregular verbs for future tense are same.
  • Verbs that end with -eler and –eter, the ‘i’ & ‘t” get doubled.

Hope this helps you in using the conditionals in French. If you face any difficulty, learning the Future Tense may help you.

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