Conditional Clauses

Introduction

Conditional clauses express that an action only takes place under a certain condition. Conditional clauses can usually be recognised by the connecting word si.

Example

Maman: «Marc, aujourd’hui je veux faire un gâteau. Peux-tu m’aider??»

Marc: «Si j’ai du temps cet après-midi, je t’aiderai.»


Maman: «Marc, peux-tu m’aider à faire un gâteau?»

Marc: «Si j’avais du temps, je t’aiderais. Mais je dois faire mes devoirs.»

Maman: «Le gâteau est maintenant terminé. Tu avais dit que tu voulais m’aider!»

Marc: «Si j’avais eu du temps, je t’aurais aidée. Mais je devais faire mes devoirs!»

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Real Condition

Here we describe a condition that we believe could become true (Maybe I’ll have time later). In the dependent clause we use the présent and in the main clause we use the futur or the présent.

Example:
Si j’ai le temps, je t’aiderai/aide.If I have time I will help you.

To Note

If we are referring to a specific time in the future, however (such as in the example text above), we have to use the futur in the main clause.

Example:
Si j’ai du temps cet après-midi, je t’aiderai.

Unreal Condition (Present)

Here we describe a condition that is not true in the present or the future (I don’t have time). We use the imparfait in the dependent clause and the conditionnel présent in the main clause.

Example:
Si j’avais le temps, je t’aiderais.If I had time, I would help you.

Unreal Condition (Past)

Here we describe a condition that was not true/fulfilled in the past (I didn’t have time). We use the plus-que-parfait in the dependent clause and the conditionnel passé in the main clause.

Example:
Si j’avais eu le temps, je t’aurais aidée.If I had had time, I would have helped you.