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:
|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 tu gagnais le gros lot, tu achèterait une belle voiture.||If you won the jackpot, you would buy a beautiful car.
The 'si' clauses use the present conditional (achèterais) when the condition is the imperfect (gagnais).
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.
(The future expresses your next step)
(The conditional expresses possibility)
I will speak
I would speak
You will watch
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
'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|
The past conditional with 'être' agrees in gender and number with the noun they qualify.
- 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.)
Keep your motivation and test your knowledge about the conditional with our exercises.
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