The Conditional - Grammar Explanation

# A. C. Balaam #

The Conditional - Grammar Explanation


The Conditional is technically a "mood" in French, but for the sake of simplicity here, we will consider it as a tense. The conditional in French is used in a largely similar way to that in which it is used in English.

It expresses a condition, i.e. "would" in English. The conditional clause will often be dependent upon a "si clause" (which will be in the imperfect (See note below))


S'il faisait beau, j'irais à la plage avec ma famille.
If the weather were good, I would go to the beach with my family.
Si elle avait plus d'argent, elle sortirait plus souvent avec ses amis.
If she had more money, she would go out with her friends more often.
Mes parents viendraient avec nous, s'ils n'étaient pas obligés de travailler.
My parents would come with us, if they didn't have to work.

It can also express a future-in-the-past:


Elle a dit qu'elle partirait vers neuf heures.
She said she would leave around nine o'clock.

Formation of the Conditional:

This is easy in French. The Conditional is formed by taking the FUTURE STEM of the verb, and adding the IMPERFECT ENDINGS.

VENIR = VIENDR je + ais je viendrais
tu + ais tu viendrais
il/elle + ait el/elle viendrait
nous + ions nous viendrions
vous + iez vous viendriez
ils/elles + aient ils/elles viendraient

Tenses in Conditional Sentences:

As noted above, the IMPERFECT and CONDITIONAL are used together in "si clauses" in the same way as they are used in English.


If I won the lottery, I would buy a larger house.
Si je gagnais à la loterie, j'achèterais une plus grande maison.
If my friend were not on holiday, we would go to the cinema together.
Si mon ami n'était pas en vacances, nous irions ensemble au cinéma.

This tense rule should be NOTED WELL as English learners of French tend to want to use the conditional in both parts of the sentence, even though this is not the case in English!