Conditional Mood

I’m jumping back a bit to further explain the Conditional at a more advanced level. There is a bit of debate on whether the conditional in French should be classed as a verb tense or a mood, and actually, the conditional verb forms can convey information about both time and the attitude of the speaker.

Present Conditional

The present conditional is formed from the future stem + imperfect endings.

Je donnerais, tu donnerais, etc.

I would/should give, you should/would give, etc.

Conditional Perfect

The conditional perfect is formed from the present conditional of the auxiliary verb (J’aurais / je serais) + past participle.

J’aurais donné. – I would have given.

Tu serais parti. – You should have left.


The main uses of the conditional are listed below.

To express a hypothesis, most commonly in the form: “If x happened, I would do… / If x had happened, I would have done…”

Si je gagnais 1.000.000 euros, je m’achèterais une nouvelle voiture.

If I won 1,000,000 Euros, I would/should buy a new car.


Si j’avais su ton adresse, je serais venu te voir.

If I had known your address, I would have come to see you.


In indirect speech or thought after si to ask/know whether something would happen/would have happened.

Il m’a demandé si je viendrais.

He asked me if/whether I would come.


Nous ne savons pas si elle aurait préférée passer l’année dernière à Nice.

We don’t know if/whether she would have preferred to spend last year in Nice.

It’s good to note that this is one of the only cases in which it is correct to use the conditional after si. An easy way to check whether an English sentence fits this category is to ask if “if” can be replaced by “whether”.

Il m’a demandé si  je changerais d’emploi.

He asked if I would change my job. / He asked whether I would change my job.


In a main clause, to imply that the information is as yet unconfirmed. This is seen mostly in the media such as newspapers and online journalism. There is also no direct equivalent form in English.

Le Président des Etats-Unis serait malade.

The President of the United States is said/rumoured to be ill.


Un avion aurait été manqué.

A plane is reported to have gone missing.


In questions, giving a tentative supposition.

La voiture n’est plus là. Ta sœur serait partie ?

The car’s gone. Might your sister have left? / Perhaps your sister has left?


Est-ce qu’ils auraient dépensé tout l’argent déjà ?

Is it possible they’ve already spent all the money?


In exclamations to convey that something is unlikely, and possibly to suggest some indignation.

Moi, je lui enverrais une invitation Facebook!

Can you imagine me sending him a Facebook [friend] request! / I’d never send him a Facebook [friend] request!


There are two cases where in English would/should may be used, but where French requires a different construction.

“Would” conveying the sense of “used to”, such as a repeated action in the past. This would actually be translated into French by the Imperfect.

When we were travelling in France, we would stay at youth hostels. (When we were travelling in France, we used to stay at youth hostels.)

Quand nous voyagions en France, nous restions dans des auberges de jeunesse.

“Should / should have” conveying the sense of “ought to / ought to have”, such as an obligation. This would be translated into French by using the Present Conditional, or the Conditional Perfect of devoir + infinitive.

I should call my mother tonight. (I ought to call my mother tonight.)

Je devrais téléphoner à ma mère ce soir.


We should have turned right at the traffic light. (We ought to have turned right at the traffic light.)

Nous aurions dû tourner à droite aux feux rouges.


Next week I will continue a bit more with the Conditional. But I will leave you with this for now.

Have a great week, everyone!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

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One thought on “Conditional Mood

  1. Pingback: Moods in Hypothetical Clauses | Learn French Avec Moi

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