Conditional mood, or le conditionnel

If I won the lottery… In Dutch we have it easy; if something could happen, we juggle the word would. That way we make the conditional mood. The French conditionnel is less easy, but easy to learn.

There are at least 4 moments when you use the conditionnel:

  • When you politely ask for something, so express a wish.
    Je voudrais une tasse de café, s’il vous plaît. (I’d like a cup of coffee, please)
  • When you say something with doubt, or something with a reserve.
    Ils gagneraient mieux leur vie. (They actually deserve better in their lives)
  • When you suggest or give advice with the verbs devoir, pouvoir, falloir .
    Vous devrez faire attention . (You should pay more attention)
  • On a hypothesis, na si + imparfait.
    Si je gagnais à la loterie, je achèterais une Lamborghini. (If I won the lottery, I’d buy a Lamborghini)

Forming conditionally present

The examples give a little bit of how to make the conditionnel present: You take the infinitive of the verb and after it you put the same endings that form the imparfait (simple past tense):
il/elle/on -ait
nous -ions
ils/elles -aient

So: je chanterais (I would sing), il choisirait (he would choose), vous rempliriez (they would fill in)
Pay attention to verbs that end in -re: the last e disappears: nous écririons (we would write)

Irregular verbs

With irregular verbs you use the futur and then add the same endings: je serais (I would be), nous serions (we would be), j’aurais (I would have), nous aurions (we would have), je ferais (I would do), nous ferions (we would do).

Some verbs require an extra r: je pourrais (I could), je verrais (I would see), je courrais (I would run), je mourrais (I would die), j’enverrais (I would send) .

Conditionally passé

Sometimes you need the conditionnel passé: If I had won the lottery, I would have bought a Lamborghini. In that case, you use être or avoir to form that past tense. You have to conjugate Être en avoir as conditionnel. So: Si je gagnais à la loterie, j’aurais acheté une Lamborghini.
J’aurais voulu le voir . (I wanted to see him)
Je pensais qu’elle serait venue . (I thought she would have come)