Skip to main content

The conditional tense

Watch this to explore the Conditional tense for Higher French (…what would you do if you won the lottery?)

search thinkfour.

Have you ever thought what if ……?

What if you won the lottery? Would you be grinning from ear to ear? I know I certainly would!

What would you spend your money on? An exotic holiday, a fancy house, loads of designer clothes …?

Speculating about what could happen and what you would do, uses what is called the CONDITIONAL tense. This tense is used to refer to hypothetical events and most often translates as WOULD or COULD in English.

Let’s delve into the realms of possibility.

This is Thinkfour

Let’s start at the beginning. Before getting into how to use the conditional, it’s important to know why to use the conditional: What does it mean, and why and when should you be using it?

The conditional is used in French to express events that are not guaranteed to occur—events that depend on certain conditions to come true.
Of course, we express these ideas in English, so why does it sound so weird when we tackle the conditional in French?
In English, when we speak, we use helping verbs like “would” and “could.” In French, you need to use a whole new conjugation to get the same meaning. This is one of the reasons that the conditional tense can seem a bit tough at first, but I promise, it’s not really all that complicated!

To form the conditional tense in French, you must start with the future tense stem.

For regular ER verbs, this stem is the same as the infinitive: if we take our old favourite example, jouer – to play
jouer is the future stem

For regular IR verbs, like finir, the stem is the same as the infinitive as well: finir – to finish

For regular RE verbs, like attendre, the stem is the same as the infinitive, minus the final “e”: attendr-.

There are several irregular stems in the future tense ; these irregular stems are the same in the conditional tense. Here are a few of the usual suspects:

Avoir — aur–
Etre — ser-
Faire — fer-
Aller — ir-

To these stems, add the conditional tense endings as you can see on screen.

Je -ais
Tu -ais
Il/Elle/On -ait
Nous -ions
Vous -iez
Ils/Elles –aient

And that’s it!
Much simpler than you expected, right?

If you know the rules for the future tense, you’re more than halfway there. All you need to learn now is when it’s appropriate to use the conditional tense.
Every time you want to say would or could in English, that is when we use the conditional tense in French.
The best example is in your Directed Writing essay when you are given the opportunity to say whether you would recommend the visit to France.
This is the perfect chance for you to showcase your use of the conditional tense in French.
Look at this example using the verb recommander – to recommend

It is a regular ER verb, so the future stem is recommander, just like the infinitive , and all we do is add on the conditional tense ending..ais
Je recommanderais – I would recommend.

So, back to ‘what if’….

What if you won the lottery? Well, unfortunately, that’s a pretty slim possibility for all of us.

But, what if you were to master the conditional tense….what if you were to use an example in your directed writing essay? Well, I would guarantee that your marks would improve!

The possibility is in your hands to control.

This was Thinkfour; Thank you for watching.

Close Menu