• French GrammarFrench Lessons

    Understand & Use French Conditional Tense With Full Efficacy

    Do not make a mistake while using French conditional tense with this guide. An expert way to master the tense and make use of it while conversing in French.

    Understand & Use French Conditional Tense With Full Efficacy
    By Michelle
    3 months ago
    How to Use Conditionals in French: Basic rules

    French Grammar French Lessons

    Understand & Use French Conditional Tense With Full Efficacy

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:

Subject Ending -er verbs -ir verbs
je (j’) -ais jouerais finirais
tu -ais jouerais finirais
ilelleon -ait jouerait finirait
nous -ions jouerions finirions
vous -iez joueriez finiriez
ilselles -aient joueraient finiraient
  • 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:

Pronoun Example verb: appeler
j’ appellerais
tu appellerais
ilelleon appellerait
nous appellerions
vous appelleriez
ilselles appelleraient
  • In case the verbs end in -yer, the y is changed to‘i’.

For example:

Pronoun Example verb: nettoyer
je nettoierais
tu nettoierais
ilelleon nettoierait
nous nettoierions
vous nettoieriez
ilselles nettoieraient

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.

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

 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 French Future Tense may help you, through our French tutors.

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