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Conditional in French (le conditionnel)

What is the conditional? 

The conditional (French: le conditionnel) is used to express an action that will take place if another action has already taken place. In general, it is used to express wishes, probability in the future, possibilities and doubts.

The conditional is used in mainly three contexts:

Usage Example Translation 
Express a polite request Je voudrais aller à la gare, s'il vous plait.

I would like to go to the train station, please.

Express 'future of the past'
(events that take place at a later time, viewed at a later time)
Elle m'a dit qu'elle ferais une bonne avocate. She told me, she would make a good lawyer.
'si clauses'
 
Si tu gagnais le gros lot, tu achèterait une belle voiture. If you won the jackpot, you would buy a beautiful car. 
 

enlightenedThe 'si' clauses use the present conditional (achèterais) when the condition is the imperfect (gagnais)

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Conditional as a tense in French 

The conditional has a temporal form for the present (French: le conditionnel présent), like the future tense. we distinguish between two conditional tenses: the present and the past conditional tense.

The present conditional 

The present conditional (French: le présent conditionnel) is very similar to the future simple, but the endings are composed of an -r- and the endings of the imperfect tense. 

Infinitif

Futur

(The future expresses your next step)

Conditionnel

(The conditional expresses possibility)

Parler

To speak 

Je parlerai

I will speak

Je parlerais

I would speak

Regarder

To watch

Tu regarderas

You will watch

Tu regarderais

You would watch 

 

Regular formation of the present conditional

 verbs on -er: manger verbs on -ir: finir verbs on -re: mettre
Je mangerais  Je finirais Je mettrais
Tu mangerais Tu finirais Tu mettrais
Il/elle/on mangerait Il/elle/on finirait Il/elle/on mettrait
Nous mangerions Nous finirions Nous mettrions
Vous mangeriez Vous finiriez Vous mettriez
Ils/elles mangeraient Ils/elles finiraient Ils/elles mettraient 

Formation of the conditional with être and avoir

 enlightened 'Avoir' and ''être' are formed irregularly: 

  • Avoir: j'aurais, tu aurais, il aurait, nous aurions, vous auriez, ils auraient 
  • Être: je serais, tu serais, il serait, nous serions, vous seriez, ils seraient 

​The past conditional 

The past conditional (French: le conditionnel passé) is formed with the conditionnel of the auxiliary verb 'avoir' or 'être' and the past participle. In general, it is used to express regrets.

verbs on -er: aimer verbs on -ir: finir verbs on -re: mettre
J'aurais aimé  J'aurais fini J'aurais mis
Tu aurais aimé Tu aurais fini Tu aurais mis
Il/elle/on aurait aimé  Il/elle/on aurait fini Il/elle/on aurait mis
Nous aurions aimé Nous aurions fini Nous aurions mis
Vous auriez aimé Vous auriez fini Vous auriez mis
Ils/elles auraient aimé Ils/elles auraient fini Ils/elles auraient mis 

enlightenedThe past conditional with 'être' agrees in gender and number with the noun they qualify.

Examples:  

  • Lucy se serait perdue dans les bois. (Lucy would have been lost in the woods.)  
  • Marc et Tom seraient rentrés en France. (Marc and Tom would have went back in France.)

​The conditional as a mode in French

The conditionnel is also used as a mode in French. It is used to describe the manner in which an action or process can or should take place.

In this case, you use the past or present conditional + infinitive

In the present, it is used to express a wish, a possibility, a guess or a polite request:

  • J'aimerais faire un dessin pour ma mère. (I would like to make a drawing for my mother.)
  • Je saurais le faire. (I would know how to do it.) 

​In the past, it is used to express regrets: 

  • J'aurais aimé rester un peu plus longtemps. (I would have loved to stay a little longer.)
  • J'aurais été heureux de partir en vacances. (I would have been happy to go in holiday.)​

yes Keep your motivation and test your knowledge about the conditional with our exercises.


Exercises

Exercise for the conditional in French I


The French conditional tense or mode exercise I


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Next lessons

1 Present conditional in French Get an ovierview of the present conditional tense in French and study the topic online
2 Past conditional in French Get an ovierview of the past conditional tense in French and study the topic online