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 ?
  • Aimeriez-vous commander un apéritif ?
  • Pourriez-vous m’aider à trouver cette boulangerie ?

In these examples, conditionnel enables you to express a suggestion or make a request. It is less direct and more polite than the imperative or the present. The verbs ‘pouvoir’, ‘vouloir’, and ‘devoir’ are often found in the conditional to diminish the strength of a command.

We are going to see when you can use the conditionnel present and how to form it.

french conditional
order in restaurant
INFINITIVECONDITIONALTRANSLATION
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 conditionnel present ?

1 – Politeness

We use le conditionnel 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 ?

2 – Advice

You can 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

3 – Fantasy

  • 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

4 – Possibility / Uncertainty

We use le conditionnel a lot in the medias.

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

5 – Hypothetical Event

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

6 – Suggestion

Pourquoi est-ce que + conditionnel négative

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

How do we form the conditionnel present ?

It is formed with the stem of the verb to the futur simple and the endings of the imparfait.

– ais, – ais, -ait, -ions, -iez, -aient

REGULAR Verbs

PERSONVerb REGARDER
Jeregarderais
Turegarderais
Il/Elle/Onregarderait
Nousregarderions
Vousregarderiez
Ils/Ellesregarderaient
PERSONVerb SE LEVER
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

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