The Conditional

The conditional is not a tense because it does not refer to a time period. Instead, the conditional is a mood that expresses what a subject would do under certain circumstances.

Use the conditional in the following situations:

  • To express what would happen under certain conditions: Si j'avais le temps je voyagerais. (If I had the time, I would travel.)
  • When “could” has the sense of “should be able to,” in which case you use the conditional of pouvoir: Il pourrait faire ceci. (He could [should be able to] do this.)
  • To politely make a request or a demand: Je voudrais l'acheter. (I would like to buy it.)

The conditional uses the same stem as the future tense, but you then add the conditional endings, which are exactly the same as the imperfect endings, as shown in Table 1.

For irregular verbs and verbs with spelling changes, you simply add conditional endings to the stems used for the future.

  • acheter: nous achèterions (xxx)
  • aller: j'irais (xxx)
  • appeler: vous appelleriez (xxx)
  • avoir: tu aurais (xxx)
  • devoir: il devrait (xxx)]
  • envoyer: j'enverrais (xxx)
  • essayer: j'essaierais or j'essayerai (xxx)
  • être: nous serions (xxx)
  • faire: vous feriez (xxx)
  • jeter: elle jetterait (xxx)
  • pouvoir: ils pourraient (xxx)
  • recevoir: je recevrais (xxx)
  • savoir: on saurait (xxx)
  • venir: nous viendrions (xxx)
  • voir: vous verriez (xxx)
  • vouloir: ils voudraient (xxx)

Irregularities in the future and conditional also occur in related verbs:

  • nous mettrions (we would put); nous permettrions (we would permit)
  • j'enverrais (I would send); je renverrais (I would send back)

Negating in the conditional

To negate a sentence in the conditional, simply put ne and the negative word around the conjugated verb:

  • Elle ne rirait pas. (She wouldn't laugh.)
  • Je ne pleurerais pas. (I wouldn't cry.)

Remember that pronouns remain before the conjugated verb: Il ne vous punirait pas. (He wouldn't punish you.)

Questions in the conditional

To form a question using inversion, reverse the order of the subject pronoun and the verb and join them with a hyphen:

  • Voudriez‐vous aller en France? (Would you like to go to France?)
  • J'aimerais partir. (I would like to leave.)