Conditional, present

Back to INDEX

Present conditional

Formation

The present conditional is extremely regular in its formation; for all verbs, it is made simply by adding the imperfect endings (-ais, -ais, -ait, -ions, -iez, -aient) to the conditional stem (which is the same as the future stem). For most verbs the stem consists of the infinitive, less any final "e."

Examples:

je trouverais
tu trouverais
elle trouverait
nous trouverions
vous trouveriez
ils trouveraient

j'entendrais
tu entendrais
elle entendrait
nous entendrions
vous entendriez
ils entendraient

Many verbs, however, have irregular conditional (and thus also future) stems. In particular, verbs ending like mener and lever take an accent: je mènerais; verbs like appeler and jeter double their penultimate consonant: elle appellerait; and verbs like employer or payer substitute an "i" for their "y": tu paierais. Other common stems are:

être -- ser- (elle serait)
avoir -- aur- (j'aurais)
aller -- ir- (nous irions)
faire -- fer- (tu ferais)
vouloir -- voudr- (ils voudraint)
pouvoir -- pourr- (vous pourriez)
devoir -- devr- (elle devrait)
falloir -- faudr- (il faudrait)

Use

The conditional is a mood, which means that it serves to express the attitude or impression of the speaker. The present conditional is used in three main contexts:

1) With certain verbs to indicate politeness:

Je voudrais la carte, s'il vous plaît. (I would like the menu, please.)
Auriez-vous deux minutes? (Would you have a couple of minutes?)

2) To express "the future of the past." Compare the regular future (as used in direct discourse) with the future of the past (used in indirect discourse):

Direct discourse: Elle a dit, "je viendrai à la fête." (She said, "I will come to the party.")
Indirect discourse: Elle a dit qu'elle viendrait à la fête. (She said she would come to the party.)

3) In si constructions expressing possible or hypothetical situations. These sentences follow a relatively inflexible pattern entailing a "si-clause" and a "result clause":

"Si + imperfect" followed by "present conditional"
Si j'avais le temps, je ferais mes devoirs. (If I had the time, I would do my homework.)

Related topic:

Back to INDEX