What is the value of Conditionnel in French?

When you reach Conditionnel Présent (conditional) it starts to get more tricky. It sounds a bit like the Future Simple and sometimes they are pronounced exactly the same way (especially nowadays). Knowing that these two tenses (and mode here) express different things can also help you with the listening skills. French people always confuse conditionnel and futur when they write, but they spell different. Once you know how to conjugate a tense the good thing is you can use it not only to express the tense itself but for a lot of ideas. That is so useful to know and I will tell you here the different values of Conditionnel Présent tense in French. Let’s first review how to conjugate the Conditionnel Présent in French.

Rule

Il se forme à partir de l’infinitif, auquel on rajoute les terminaisons l’imparfait).

Conditional in French is built from the infinitive, then we add the following endings:
ais, -ais, -ait, -ions, -iez, -aient

Did you notice? These endings are the one we also use for l’imparfait!

Values of Conditionnel Présent in French

The Conditionnel Présent is used to express:

  • A possible fact, achievable in the future (s’il pleuvait demain, j’irais volontiers au cinéma, pas toi?  
  • A non accomplished fact, non achievable (si j’étais à ta place, je refuserais cette proposition)
  • An unconfirmed news (selon certaines sources, l’actrice se trouverait en Argentine)
  • A polite request (pourriez-vous m’aider?)
  • An imaginary fact (moi je serais le chef et toi tu m’obéirais)
  • A surprise, positive or negative (Hein? Il serait à Paris et ne m’aurait pas prévenu!)
  • An advice, a suggestion (vous devriez vous reposer un peu)
  • An eventuality, a possibility (on dirait qu’il va pleuvoir)

Yes! Conditionnel Présent can be used to express all these! I encourage you to try to use this in your daily practice. It will get more and more natural for you to use this tense!

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