French/Grammar/Tenses/Present conditional

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Usage of the conditional (present)


The conditional tense is used when:

  • a hypothetical situation is described. In which case the structure "Si + l'imparfait, le conditionnel" is used.
e.g. If I saw (or If I were to see) her, I would not recognize her. - Si je la voyais, je ne la reconnaîtrais pas.
  • a polite request needs to be made:
e.g. I would like a small salad, please. - Je voudrais (or J'aimerais) une petite salade, s'il vous plaît.
  • an event that had not happened was described:
e.g. He said Marie would come. - Il a dit que Marie viendrait.

Formation of the conditional


Conditional stems

  • For (regular and irregular) -er or -ir verbs, the infinitive is the conditional stem.
  • For (regular and irregular) -re verbs, the infinitive minus the final e is the conditional stem.
  • Exception: verbs that are stem-changing in the present are stem-changing in the conditional also.
  • Exception: certain irregular verbs (but not all) have irregular conditional stems.
  • Note: in a word, the conditional stem is the same with the future one.

Stem changes

Verb Change from Change to
-ler verbs ler ller
ier verbs ier ier
-yer verbs yer ier
verbs with an e in the penultimate syllable e in penultimate syllable è
verbs with é in the penultimate syllable é in penultimate syllable è

Irregular stems

Verb Future stem
aller ir-
avoir aur-
devoir devr-
envoyer enverr-
être ser-
faire fer-
pleuvoir pleuvr-
pouvoir pourr-
savoir saur-
venir viendr-
voir verr-
vouloir voudr-

Conditional endings

  • To conjugate in the conditional, add the appropriate ending to the future stem.
Subject Ending Example with parler
je -ais parlerais
tu -ais parlerais
il -ait parlerait
nous -ions parlerions
vous -iez parleriez
ils -aient parleraient