French Grammar: The Conditional Mood

French Grammar: The Conditional Mood

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French Grammar: The Conditional Mood
la grammaire française: le mode conditionnel

The Conditional Mood (le mode conditionnel) in French is used in much the same way as the Conditional Mood in English to discuss events that are not certain to occur. Often, these events depend on other conditions (hence, the term “Conditional” mood).

Tu mangerais des crêpes en Espagne?
Would you (informal) eat crêpes in Spain?

Non. Je mangerais des crêpes en France.
No. I would eat crêpes in France.

Parleriez-vous plus haut, s’il vous plaît?
Would you (formal) speak louder, please?

Il achèterait un chien s’il n’était pas allergique.
He would buy a dog if he weren’t allergic.

The Conditional Mood is used to tell what you or others would do in a given situation. In order to talk about what you would do or to understand what others would do, you will need to understand the Conditional Mood in French.


There are several situations in which the Conditional Mood is used:

a. To simply express what one would do (or would like to do) in a given situation.

J’aimerais trouver un travail cet été.
I would like to find a job this summer.

b. To describe what would happen if certain conditions were met. (Find more information about this usage in Conditional Sentences (“Si” Clauses)

Elle nous rendrait visite si elle avait le temps.
She would visit us if she had the time.

c. To describe what would happen at a future point in time from a past perspective.

Ils ont dit qu’ils rappeleraient plus tard.
They (masculine) said they would call back later.

d. To express probability or to speculate about present conditions.

Nous partirons en retard.
We would leave late.

e. To make a request more polite.

Vous me passeriez du pain, s’il vous plaît?
Would you pass me some bread, please?

To form the Conditional construction of regular verbs, you ADD Conditional endings to the infinitive. (NOTE: -RE verbs drop the final -E before adding the Conditional ending.) . Check out the following examples:

PARLER (to speak) FINIR (to finish) VENDRE (to sell) ENDINGS
Je parlerais finirais vendrais -ais
Tu parlerais finirais vendrais -ais
Il / Elle / On parlerait finirait vendrait -ait
Nous parlerions finirions vendrions -ions
Vous parleriez finiriez vendriez -iez
Ils / Elles parleraient finiraient vendraient -aient

Based on the above chart, you may have noticed that forming the Conditional Mood really just boils down to combining the Future Tense stem + Imperfect Indicative endings!

To form the Conditional construction for irregular verbs, begin with the same irregular stems as the Future Tense and then add the appropriate conditional endings. (NOTE: Conditional endings for irregular verbs are identical to Conditional endings for regular verbs!)

aller : ir-
to go

avoir : aur-
to have

courir : courr-
to run

devenir : deviendr-
to become

devoir : devr-
must / should / ought to

envoyer : enverr-
to send

être : ser-
to be

faire : fer-
to do / to make

mourir : mourr-
to die

pleuvoir : pleuvr-
to rain

pouvoir : pourr-
to be able / can

recevoir : recevr-
to receive

revenir : reviendr-
to come back / to return

savoir : saur-
to know (facts, information)

venir : viendr-
to come

voir : verr-
to see

vouloir : voudr-
to want


Nous parlerions français en France.
We would speak French in France.

Je vendrais mes livres.
I would sell my books.

Elle aimerait du lait.
She would like (some) milk.

Ils nous attendraient.
They (masculine) would wait for us.

Vous arriveriez lundi.
You all would arrive on Monday.

Elles finiraient les devoirs.
They (feminine) would finish the homework.

Je préférerais rester chez moi.
I would prefer to stay home.

Tu lirais le livre.
You (informal) would read the book.

Elle écouterait la radio.
She would listen to the radio.

L’avion décollerait à l’heure.
The plane would take off on time.