Imperfect vs past conditional

NancyC1Kwiziq community member

Imperfect vs past conditional

Why does the "Si" clause use imperfect tense and not past conditional tense when the main part of the sentence uses present conditional tense?

(Yes, the answer is likely "That's just the way it works" - but I am curious.)

Asked 3 years ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Nancy, 

Please take a look at my answer to Gregory, a little while ago, listing and explaning the three different cases you can have with what are called -

"The Si clauses "

I believe it is very much as in English in terms of tenses used and expresses three very distinct cases -

https://progress.lawlessfrench.com/questions/view/other-types-of-si-clauses

Hope this helps!

JimC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor
MaartenC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

"Si/if (x),  (y) follows".  Alternatively the sentences can be reversed to "(y) follows si/if (x)", without changing the grammatical requirements.

(x) imposes a condition.  (y) is conditional on (x). 

The conditional tense/mood/verbs are only properly used in the clause that is conditional (y), in French or English.

Rather than reiterate information here, these links cover the conditional statements and types, as well as the tenses/moods used in each of the clauses in scenarios varying from (highly) likely, improbable, to impossible. 

https://www.lawlessfrench.com/grammar/conditional-perfect/

https://www.lawlessfrench.com/grammar/si-clauses-first-conditional/

https://www.lawlessfrench.com/grammar/si-clauses-second-conditional/

https://www.lawlessfrench.com/?s=third+conditional

ChrisC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

The rules read like a complicated mess, but, really, they are identical to English. Someone might find an exception where English and French work differently, but I couldn't think of one off hand.

If it is nice, we'll go to the beach. -- S'il fait beau, nous irons à la plage.
If it were nice, we would go to the beach. -- S'il faisait beau, nous irions à la plage.
If it had been nice, we would have gone to the beach. -- S'il avait fait beau, nous serions allés à la plage.
AlanC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

"If it were nice" is the exception. But if you had chosen a verb with no distinct subjunctive form, it would be roughly the same as French, i.e. simple past tense in English since there is no imperfect.

NancyC1Kwiziq community member

Thank you, everyone!

Imperfect vs past conditional

Why does the "Si" clause use imperfect tense and not past conditional tense when the main part of the sentence uses present conditional tense?

(Yes, the answer is likely "That's just the way it works" - but I am curious.)

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