French Conditional Mood

How to use the French conditional mood

French produce vendor
"Je voudrais une pomme." (I would like an apple.). Bo Zaunders / Getty Images

The French conditional mood is very similar to the English conditional mood. It describes events that are not guaranteed to occur; often they are dependent on certain conditions. While the French conditional mood has a full set of conjugations, the English equivalent is just the modal verb "would" + main verb.

The French conditional is mainly used in if ... then, to express what would happen if a condition were met*

   Il mangerait s'il avait faim.


   He would eat if he were hungry.

   Si nous étudiions, nous serions plus intelligents.
   If we studied, (then) we would be smarter.

*Note that the conditional is in the result (then) part of the clause, not the clause that follows si (if).

The verb vouloir is used in the conditional to express a polite request:

   Je voudrais une pomme.
   I would like an apple.

   Je voudrais y aller avec vous.
   I would like to go with you.

However, you can't say "si vous voudriez" to mean "if you would like," because the French conditional can never be used after si.

The verb aimer is used to express a polite desire, sometimes one that cannot be fulfilled:

   J'aimerais bien le voir !
   I would really like to see it!

   J'aimerais y aller, mais je dois travailler
   I would like to go, but I have to work.

Learn how to conjugate the conditional mood.

Test on the French conditional mood

The conditional is, in my opinion, one of the simplest French conjugations. There is only one set of endings for all verbs, and most of them - even many which are irregular in the present tense - use their infinitives as the root. There are only about two dozen stem-changing or irregular verbs which have irregular conditional stems but take the same endings:*

acheter > achèter-   similar verbs: achever, amener, emmener, lever, promener

acquérir > acquerr-   similar verbs: conquérir, s'enquérir

appeler > appeller-   similar verbs: épeler, rappeler, renouveler

aller > ir-

avoir > aur-

courir > courr-   similar verbs: concourir, discourir, parcourir, more

devoir > devr-

envoyer > enverr-

essayer > essaier-   similar verbs: balayer, effrayer, payer

essuyer > essuier-   similar verbs: appuyer, ennuyer

être > ser-

faire > fer-

falloir > faudr-

jeter > jetter-   similar verbs: feuilleter, hoqueter, projeter, rejeter

nettoyer > nettoier-   similar verbs: employer, noyer, tutoyer, more

pleuvoir > pleuvr-

pouvoir > pourr-

savoir > saur-

tenir > tiendr-   similar verbs: maintenir, obtenir, soutenir, more

valoir > vaudr-

venir > viendr-   similar verbs: devenir, parvenir, revenir, more

voir > verr-   similar verb: revoir

vouloir > voudr-

*Notes:

   1.

The conditional stem always ends in R.
   2. The exact same verbs are irregular in the future and use the same stems.

Test on the French conditional mood


French conditional conjugations

To conjugate an -ER or -IR verb in the conditional, add the appropriate endings to the infinitive. For -RE verbs, remove the final -e and then add the conditional endings. For irregular verbs, add the endings to the irregular conditional stem. For example, here are the conditional conjugations for the regular verbs parler (to speak), finir (to finish), and vendre (to sell) and the irregular verb aller (to go):
 
PronounConditional endingparler > parler-finir > finir-vendre > vendr-aller > ir-
 je -aisparleraisfiniraisvendraisirais
 tu -aisparleraisfiniraisvendraisirais
 il -aitparleraitfiniraitvendraitirait
 nous -ionsparlerionsfinirionsvendrionsirions
 vous -iezparleriezfiniriezvendrieziriez
 ils -aientparleraientfiniraientvendraientiraient