French Lessons-The Conditional

French LessonsThe Conditional The conditional is not a tense because it does not refer to a time period. Instead, the conditional is a mood that expresses what a subject would do under certain circumstances. Use the conditional in the following situations:

  • To express what would happen under certain conditions: Si j’avais le temps je voyagerais. (If I had the time, I would travel.)
  • When “could” has the sense of “should be able to,” in which case you use the conditional of pouvoirIl pourrait faire ceci. (He could [should be able to] do this.)
  • To politely make a request or a demand: Je voudrais l’acheter. (I would like to buy it.)
The conditional uses the same stem as the future tense, but you then add the conditional endings, which are exactly the same as the imperfect endings, as shown in Table 1. For irregular verbs and verbs with spelling changes, you simply add conditional endings to the stems used for the future.
  • acheter: nous achèterions (xxx)
  • aller: j’irais (xxx)
  • appeler: vous appelleriez (xxx)
  • avoir: tu aurais (xxx)
  • devoir: il devrait (xxx)]
  • envoyer: j’enverrais (xxx)
  • essayer: j’essaierais or j’essayerai (xxx)
  • être: nous serions (xxx)
  • faire: vous feriez (xxx)
  • jeter: elle jetterait (xxx)
  • pouvoir: ils pourraient (xxx)
  • recevoir: je recevrais (xxx)
  • savoir: on saurait (xxx)
  • venir: nous viendrions (xxx)
  • voir: vous verriez (xxx)
  • vouloir: ils voudraient (xxx)
Irregularities in the future and conditional also occur in related verbs:
  • nous mettrions (we would put); nous permettrions (we would permit)
  • j’enverrais (I would send); je renverrais (I would send back)
Negating in the conditional To negate a sentence in the conditional, simply put ne and the negative word around the conjugated verb:
  • Elle ne rirait pas. (She wouldn’t laugh.)
  • Je ne pleurerais pas. (I wouldn’t cry.)
Remember that pronouns remain before the conjugated verb: Il ne vous punirait pas. (He wouldn’t punish you.) Questions in the conditional To form a question using inversion, reverse the order of the subject pronoun and the verb and join them with a hyphen:
  • Voudriezvous aller en France? (Would you like to go to France?)
  • J’aimerais partir. (I would like to leave.)
French Prepositions of Place – Countries, Cities, Regions Why do you say “Je vais en France” but “Je vais au Japon”? Like any inanimate object, continents, countries, and regions also have genders in French. The ending will usually tell you which is feminine or masculine and help you choose the correct French preposition of place. A – General Rule About French Prepositions of Places When the name of a region ends in an E, it’s usually feminine. La France, l’Angleterre, la Suisse, la Chine, l’Inde, la Californie, l’Asie
  • To say you’re going TO it, use EN Je vais… en France, en Italie, en Afrique, en Floride…
  • To say you’re there, use EN Je suis…  en France, en Italie, en Afrique, en Floride…
  • To say you’re coming from it, use DE Je viens de France, d’Italie, d’Afrique, de Floride…
(There are many exceptions though, such as Le Mexique, Le Maine, Le Zimbabwe…) When the name of a region ends in any other vowel but Eor a consonant, it’s usually masculine. Le Canada, le Japon, le Portugal, le Burundi, le Luxembourg, le Texas
  • To say you’re going TO it, use AU Je vais… au Niger, au Brésil, au Maroc, au Congo
  • To say you’re there, use AU Je suis…  au Niger, au Brésil, au Maroc, au Congo
  • To say you’re coming from it, use DU Je viens… du Niger, du Brésil, du Maroc, du Congo
When a masculine country starts with a vowel or an H, use the rules of the feminine countries L’Iran, l’Ouganda, Oman, Angola, Israël
  • Je vais en Iran, je viens d’Angola, je suis en Israël
B – Particular Cases About French Prepositions of Places Unfortunately, there are too many exceptions to be listed… So be ready to face many particular cases. Here are some pointers 1 – Plural names A few names of regions are plural. Most plural regions end in an S, but not all regions ending in an S are plural (le Laos, L’Arkansas)… So with plural regions, here is the rule Les États-Unis, les Maldives, les Pays-Bas, Les Philippines…
  • To say you’re going TO it, use AUX Je vais… aux États-Unis, aux Maldives
  • To say you’re there, use AUX Je suis…   aux États-Unis, aux Maldives
  • To say you’re coming from it, use DES Je viens… des États-Unis, des Maldives
Note the pronunciation of les États-Unis – there are 2 strong liaisons in Z, whether its introduced by les, aux or des = Zéta Zuni 2 – Cities Cities are usually not introduced by any article, and are usually feminine. Paris est belle (because here Paris refers to “la ville de Paris”).
  • For most cities, to say you’re going TO it, use à Je vais… à Paris, à Tokyo, à New-York
  • To say you’re IN it, use à Je suis… à Paris, à Tokyo, à New-York
  • To say you’re coming from it, use DE Je viens… de Paris, de Tokyo, de New-York
But some cities include an article in their name – Le Havre, le Caire, La Paz, Les Andelys… For these, usually the article contracts with the à, becoming au, du etc… 3 – Islands Are messy business in French… !! Many don’t have any article, and will be introduced by à or de Je vais à Cuba, à Haïti, à Madagascar But some are masculine Je vais au Japon And some are feminine Je vais en Corse And other plural Je vais aux Maldives So it’s more like a case by case scenario… 4 – Regions and states These usually follow the general rules for gender. La Provence, Le Sussex, l’Oregon. Note that in the US, the states are masculine except: La Floride, La Californie, La Caroline du Sud, La Caroline du Nord, La Louisiane, la Georgie, la Virginie occidentale (West Virginia), la Virginie Orientale (Virginia), La Pennsylvanie. But watch out… Le Maine. For prepositions used with  regions and states, it’s very difficult to say there is a rule per se… We tend not to use à, but rather en, au, aux or dans le, dans la, dans les… It’s really a matter of custom, not grammar. Au Texas, dans le Maine, en Bourgogne, en Californie, dans la Creuse….  ]]>

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