The conditional tense exists in English, but most native speakers don’t consciously think about it, because it’s not a distinct conjugation, per se. As the term implies, the conditional tense is what you use when you’re saying that one event depends on another event to happen. In English, the word “would” is usually involved.

I would have called [conditional tense] my mom if I’d had my phone with me.

He wouldn’t go [conditional tense] unless I promised to buy him a toy.

In French, the conditional is also used to make polite requests or polite desires with vouloir and aimer.

Would you like to come with me? (“Voudriez-vous venir avec moi?”)

I would love to go with you. (“J’aimerais bien aller avec vous.”)

Conjugation of the conditional

In French, the conditional tense (le conditionnel) is a distinct tense with a distinct conjugation pattern.

Conditional verb endings
(je) -ais (nous) -ions
(tu) -ais (vous) -iez
(il) -ait (ils) -aient

Regular conditional verbs

Conjugation of regular conditional verbs is simple. Simply take the infinitive root form + the appropriate conditional endings (above).

For example:

The verb nager is je nage in present tense and becomes je nagerais in the conditional.

The verb chasser is nous chassons in the present tense and becomes nous chasserions in the conditional.

Irregular conditional verbs

The same verbs that are irregular in future tense are also irregular in conditional tense, so you only need to learn one set of irregular verbs and root forms between the two verb tenses. Here are most of the common irregular verbs in conditional:

Irregular verb Conditional root form
etre ser-
avoir aur-
falloir faudr-
aller ir-
faire fer-
devoir devr-
pouvoir pourr-
savoir saur-
venir viendr- (same format for devenir and revenir)
vouloir voudr-
voir verr-
pleuvoir pleuvr-
valoir vaudr-

Spelling changes in conditional forms

There are a few other verbs that change spelling slightly to accommodate the conditional conjugations while keeping the pronunciation intact.

1) Doubling the final consonant
  • Appeler → appeller + conditional ending and rappeler → rappeller + conditional ending
  • Jeter → jetter + conditional ending and projeter → projetter + conditional ending
2) Certain verbs that end in -yer

Replace the y with an i instead.

  • Essayer, envoyer, ennuyer, nettoyer, payer
  • For example, nettoyer → nettoier + conditional ending (“je nettoierais”)
3) Changing the e to an accent grave è

For verb spellings that would make the second to last e not pronounced, the e gets an accent grave è to make it a substantial sound.

  • Amener, promener, lever, acheter, emmener
  • For example, promener → promèner + conditional ending (“je promènerais”)
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