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THE CONDITIONAL (le conditionnel)

The conditional takes its name from the fact that it is used essentially in sentences that include an element of condition or hypothesis. Unlike in English, where you use the auxiliary 'would', the conditional in French is indicated by a certain ending that is added to the stem (which is very often the infinitive form of the verb). Note that the stem is the same for the conditional and the future, so it is the ending that will indicate whether the verb is in the future or in the conditional.

Please note that in some cases the French conditional will not be translated by the English conditional but by the expression 'is supposed to be' or 'is said to be'.

For example: Le fils de Kadhafi aurait été capturé (Gaddafi's son is said to have been captured)

The stem of regular verb in the future or in the conditional is its infinitive for -er ,-ir verb and -re verbs, but note that the final -e of -re verbs is dropped. Unfortunately, a lot of the most common verbs have an irregular stem. You should therefore devote some time to learn them so as to save time later on:

avoir to have aur-

être to be ser-

aller to go ir-

faire to do, to make fer-

venir to come viendr-

tenir to hold tiendr-

pouvoir to be able pourr-

vouloir to want voudr-

voir to see verr-

savoir to know saur-

devoir to have to; to owe devr-

falloir to be necessary faudr-

valoir to be worth vaudr-

The endings for the conditional are as follow (note that they are the same as the imperfect): -ais, -ais,-ait, -ions, -iez, -aient.

Please keep in mind that, whatever the stem, the letter 'r' is always present before the conditional endings, but that this does not mean that all verbs ending with that pattern will be in the conditional (they could, for instance, belong to the imperfect).

Remember, too, that the conditional shares a common stem with the future but has different endings. Please pay particular attention to endings so as to avoid any confusion.

Click here to see an illustration of this