Si Clause Threads - Third Conditional: Pluperfect + Past Conditional

French class exercise

This practice exercise can be done as a class or in small groups. It requires familiarity with the third conditional (si clauses), including pluperfect and past conditional conjugations.

What to do

Print out a table for each group (see below).

Write the first part of a conditional sentence beginning with si (see suggestions below) in the first table cell. Since this is the third conditional, the si clause needs to be in the pluperfect.

Invent a "result" clause, using the past conditional, for the second cell.

For example:

If clause Result clause
Si j'avais vu l'accident, j'aurais appelé à la police.

Next, transform the result clause into a si clause and write it in the first column of the second row. (Remember that the verb which was in the past conditional now needs to be in the pluperfect.) Then invent a corresponding result clause to continue the thread.

Si j'avais vu l'accident, j'aurais appelé à la police.
Si j'avais appelé à la police, elle m'aurait interrogé.

Transform the second result clause into a si clause, and so on, until you have completed the thread.

Si j'avais vu l'accident, j'aurais appelé à la police.
Si j'avais appelé à la police, elle m'aurait interrogé.
Si elle m'avait interrogé, j'aurais demandé un avocat.
Si j'avais demandé un avocat, j'aurais fait faillite.

To make sure students understand the exercise, start by demonstrating on the board: write a si clause and call on students as you go through the entire thread collectively.

Then divide the class into groups of 2-4 students and provide each group with an "if" clause, or have them come up with their own. After each group has completed their thread, either have students read them out loud, or - if there are likely to be a lot of mistakes, as in the case of weaker students - collect the papers and read the threads out loud yourself, either correcting them as you read, or writing the sentences on the board and going over them together.


  • To challenge students' creativity, have each group start with the same si clause, and then compare how each one turned out at the end.
  • Assign a different si clause to each group, and after they have each completed one row of the table, have them trade with another group. Each group will then complete the clause in the other groups' tables, and then exchange once again with a third group.
  • You can also use this exercise to practice the first conditional and the second conditional.

Starter clauses

You and your students can of course invent your own "if" clauses,* but here are some ideas to get started:

  1. Si j'avais choisi mes propres parents
  2. Si j'avais connu Mahatma Gandhi
  3. Si j'avais découvert l'Amérique du nord
  4. Si j'avais inventé la voiture hybride
  5. Si j'avais oublié mon numéro de téléphone
  6. Si j'avais visité la Côte-d'Ivoire
  7. Si je n'avais jamais dégusté le chocolat
  8. Si j'étais né(e) en France
  9. Si j'étais né(e) l'autre sexe
  10. Si j'étais sorti(e) hier soir
  11. Si je m'étais levé(e) à 4h00 ce matin
  12. Si je n'étais pas venu(e) à l'école aujourd'hui
  13. Si l'Internet n'avait jamais existé
  14. Si la plateforme Deepwater Horizon n'avait pas explosé
  15. Si on n'avait pas visité la lune
  16. Si mon frère avait été une rock star
  17. Si ma famille avait habité en Antarctique
  18. Si Martin Luther King Jr n'avait pas été assassiné
  19. Si nous avions vécu il y a cent ans
  20. Si tu avais été mon frère / ma sœur

*If you come up with a great starter clause, please share your ideas.


This exercise needs tables with two columns and four rows. I have provided a printable page of tables in both PDF and Microsoft Word formats; you can save and edit the latter if, for example, you want to type the starter "if" clause into the first cell of each table. Print enough copies so that you can cut them up and provide at least one table for each group of students.

Si clauses