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

Je regarderais
Tu regarderais
Il/Elle/On regarderait
Nous regarderions
Vous regarderiez
Ils/Elles regarderaient
Je me lèverais
Tu te lèverais
Il/Elle/On se lèverait
Nous nous nous lèverions
Vous vous vous lèveriez
Ils/Elles se 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.

aller j’irais I would go
avoir j’aurais I would have
courir je courrais I would run
devoir je devrais I would be obliged to
envoyer j’enverrais I would send
être je serais I would be
faire je ferais I would do
falloir il faudrait it would be necessary
mourir je mourrais I would die
obtenir j’obtiendrais I would obtain
pleuvoir il pleuvrait it would rain
pouvoir je pourrais I would be able
recevoir je recevrais I would receive
savoir je saurais I would know
tenir je tiendrais I would hold
venir je viendrais I would come
voir je verrais I would see
vouloir je voudrais I 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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