Unité 7 : Conditional, Complex Negatives

Le conditionnel

Contents

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Formation

For regular verbs, the conditional is formed with the infinitive of the verb and the imperfect endings: -ais, -ais, -ait, -ions, -iez, -aient.

Exemple Grandir (to grow)

Je grandirais
Tu grandirais
Il/Elle/On grandirait
Nous grandirions
Vous grandiriez
Ils/Elles grandiraient

Verbs that are irregular in the future can be used to form the conditional. You take the future stem, and then add imperfect endings:

Aller – Future: J’irai – Conditional: J’irais

Pouvoir – Future: Je pourrai – Conditional: Je pourrais

Conditional OF IRREGULAR VERBS
Accueillir – to welcome Aller – to go Avoir – to have Courir – to run
Craindre – to fear Devoir – to have to Envoyer – to send Être – to be

Faire – to do/make

Falloir – it is necessary Mourir – to die Pleuvoir – to rain
Pouvoir – to be able Recevoir – to get/receive Savoir – to know Tenir – to hold
Venir – to come Voir – to see Vouloir – to want/wish  

 

 

 

Use of the Conditional

1. The conditional generally translates the English would or should – except where ‘would’ indicates an habitual action in the past.

Examples:

  • J’aimerais bien une tasse de café – I would love a cup of coffee
  • BUT: J’allais souvent en France. – I would often go to France 

‘Would’ in this instance means ‘used to go’.

2. To express an information that is not confirmed in French, one uses the Conditional

Examples: 

  • Ce tremblement de terre compterait des milliers de morts – It is surmised that there may be thousands of deaths, but it’s not certain.
  • D’après les sondages, les gens préféreraient élire un nouveau gouvernment – It is felt from the surveys that the people want to elect a new government, but one cannot be sure.

3. The Conditional is ideal for polite conversation

Examples:

  • Pourriez-vous me dire où se trouvent les toilettes s’il vous plaît ? – Could you tell me where the toilets are please?
  • Auriez-vous l’obligeance de confirmer votre présence au rendez-vous ? – Would you be so kind as to confirm your attendance at the meeting?

4. The verb ‘devoir’ in the Conditional translates the idea of ‘should’, meaning ‘ought to’.

  • Il devrait nous accompagner à Dublin – He should give us a lift to Dublin.
  • Nous devrions attendre encore quelques minutes – We should wait for a few more minutes
 A vous maintenant !
 
Trouvez les verbes au conditionnel dans ce petit texte.
 

 

‘Si’ clauses.

The Conditional is used with the Imperfect as part of ‘si’ clauses. It is used to say what you would do if things were different. It goes as follows:

Si + imperfect (first part of the sentence), conditional (second part of the sentence)

Examples:

  • S’il faisait beau (Imp), j’irais (Cond) à la plage – If the weather was nice, I would go to the beach (but the reality is that the weather isn’t nice!).
  • Si tu gagnais (Imp) à la loterie, tu achèterais (Cond) une nouvelle maison – If you won the lotto, you would buy a new house (but the reality is that you didn’t win the lotto!).

A vous maintenant

Imagine a situation that is unlikely to happen and write a short passage in French with a number of verbs in the Conditional.

Example:
Je voudrais un jour devenir premier ministre de l’Irlande. J’abolirais le chômage en créant beaucoup d’emplois. Nous vivrions tous dans le bonheur.
Vous allez me dire que je rêve et qu’il faudrait être réaliste. Moi, je vous réponds que vous, vous devriez regarder toutes les possibilités qui nous entourent et en profiter….

 

 

Complex Negatives

Certain expressions you should watch out for where ‘pas’ is omitted.

As in English, the French do not like double negatives.

Below are a few expressions you should remember where ‘pas’ is omitted.

  • ne… jamais (never) – Il ne va jamais chez Pierre – He never goes to Pierre’s house.
  • ne… plus (no more, no longer) – Je n’ai plus d’argent. Ils ne vont plus en vacances – I have no more money. They no longer go on holidays.
  • ne… guère (scarcely) – Nous n’avons guère de quoi survivre – We have hardly got anything to survive.
  • ni… ni (neither nor) – Les enfants ne portent ni pantalon, ni chaussures – The children are wearing neither trousers nor shoes. 
  • ne… aucun (not any, none) – Didier n’a aucune envie de continuer à suivre la course – Didier has no desire to continue following the race.
  • Note that aucun is always singular but it can be feminine or masculine. It is followed by a noun, without any article preceding it (aucun livre, aucune voiture)

Take a look at this text and identify all the complex negatives

 

Now take this short test on this unit!