How to use the Present Conditional

If you’ve been to France or have been watching a few French TV shows, you’ve surely encountered le conditionnel (conditional).

  • Est-ce que je pourrais avoir un café, s’il vous plait ? = Could I have a coffee, please?
  • Aimeriez-vous commander un apéritif ? = Would you like to order an aperitif?

In these examples, the present conditional is used to express a suggestion or make a request. It is less direct and more polite than the imperative or the present. It is also very useful to know the conditional for French conversation.

French conditional in restaurant

Table of content :

  • How do we form the conditional present in French ?
  • When do we use the present conditional ?

How do we form the conditional present in French ?

First, it is formed with the stem of the verb to the futur simple and the endings of the imparfait.

Regular verbs in French conditional

Jeme lèverais
Tute lèverais
Il/Elle/Onse lèverait
Nousnous nous lèverions
Vousvous vous lèveriez
Ils/Ellesse lèveraient

Note : -ais, -ait and -aient are pronounced exactly the same

Irregular verbs in conditional

And good news ! The irregular verbs in conditional are the same than in the futur simple.

Moreover, to learn and review all your irregular verbs, I recommend you to use a Bescherelle.

allerj’iraisI would go
avoirj’auraisI would have
courirje courraisI would run
devoirje devraisI would be obliged to
envoyerj’enverraisI would send
êtreje seraisI would be
faireje feraisI would do
falloiril faudraitit would be necessary
mourirje mourraisI would die
obtenirj’obtiendraisI would obtain
pleuvoiril pleuvraitit would rain
pouvoirje pourraisI would be able
recevoirje recevraisI would receive
savoirje sauraisI would know
tenirje tiendraisI would hold
venirje viendraisI would come
voirje verraisI would see
vouloirje voudraisI would want

When do we use the conditional present ?

Make a polite request in French

We use firstly the conditional to make a request less brutal.

  • Je veux un verre d’eau = I want a glass of water (a bit rude)
  • Je voudrais un verre d’eau = I would like a glass of water
  • Vous pouvez m’aider = Can you help me ? (just neutral)
  • Vous pourriez m’aider = Could you help ?  (more polite)
  • Avez-vous des pains au chocolat = Do you have chocolate croissants ?
  • Auriez-vous des pains au chocolat = Would you have chocolate croissants ?

How to give an advice in French

We can also use le conditionnel with DEVOIR and FAIRE MIEUX.

  • Tu ne devrais pas aller si souvent au McDonalds = You shouldn’t go to McDonalds so often
  • A ta place, j’emménagerais dans un autre quartier moins bruyant = If I were you I would move in to another area less noisy

Speak about imaginary fact

  • Nous habiterions à Tahiti et nous pécherions toute la journée = We would live in Tahiti and would go fishing all day long.

It’s just a dream at the moment, not the reality.

conditional dream

Possibility / Uncertainty

We use the conditional a lot in the medias.

  • Le president arriverait demain matin au Caire = The president would arrive tomorrow morning in Cairo (not yet confirmed)

Speak about an hypothetical event in French

With Si + Imparfait > Conditionnel

  • Si je gagnais au loto, je ferais un tour du monde = If I won the lottery, I’d go around the world
  • J’irais le voir si j’avais assez de temps = I’d go to see him if I had the time

Make a suggestion in French

Finally, le conditional can be seen with Pourquoi est-ce que + negative conditional

  • Pourquoi est-ce ne nous partirions pas faire du ski ?
  • Pourquoi ne prendrions-nous pas aussi des pains aux raisins ?

Would you like to review the future tense or the imparfait ? Feel free to browse more articles in my blog or get in touch !

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