Using L'Imparfait in hypothetical clauses introduced by si (if) + Le Conditionnel Présent

Here's a hypothetical situation in English:

If we won the lottery, we would buy a house.

-> Here you can see that if is followed by a verb in the Simple Past (won), while the second clause uses the Conditional Present (would buy).

Now look at the French:

Si on gagnait au loto, on achèterait une maison.

-> Here you see that in French, si is followed by a verb in L'Imparfait (gagnait), while the second clause uses Le Conditionnel Présent (achèterait).

Here are more examples: 

Si on gagnait au loto, on achèterait une maison.
If we won the lottery, we would buy a house.

Si tu venais avec moi, tu ne le regretterais pas.
If you came with me, you wouldn't regret it.

Je ne saurais pas quoi faire si j'étais toi.
I wouldn't know what to do if I were you.

Si j'étais riche, j'achèterais un appartement à Paris.
If I were rich, I would buy an appartment in Paris.

Note that to express hypotheses in French, you'll use L'Imparfait after si, and Le Conditionnel Présent in the second part of the sentence.

ATTENTION: 

You can never use Le Passé Composé nor other past tenses in this context.


See other uses of L'Imparfait:
Expressing continuing action in L'Imparfait (imperfect tense)

Expressing habits or repeated actions in L'Imparfait (imperfect tense)

And to see how to conjugate in L'Imparfait
Conjugate regular verbs in L'Imparfait (imperfect tense) and Conjugate être in L'Imparfait (imperfect tense)

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Si on gagnait au loto, on achèterait une maison.
If we won the lottery, we would buy a house.


Si tu venais avec moi, tu ne le regretterais pas.
If you came with me, you wouldn't regret it.


S'ils économisaient plus, ils pourraient se permettre des vacances.
If they saved more, they could afford holidays.


Si tu faisais tes devoirs le vendredi, tu serais libre le reste du weekend.
If you did your homework on Fridays, you would be free the rest of the weekend.


Si j'étais riche, j'achèterais un appartement à Paris.
If I were rich, I would buy an appartment in Paris.


Je ne saurais pas quoi faire si j'étais toi.
I wouldn't know what to do if I were you.


Q&A

Angela

Kwiziq community member

26 November 2018

2 replies

I am unable to read the complete response choice on my portable.

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

4 December 2018

4/12/18

Hi Angela, 

As this is a technical and not a language question can you re-post on the Help and support section where someone might be able to answer you?

Angela

Kwiziq community member

4 December 2018

4/12/18

Yes. Thank you!

Judy

Kwiziq community member

21 September 2018

2 replies

Si clause

The phrase “if you could run” uses L’imparfait. But the phrase “if you run” uses the present tense. Could you explain this difference to me? Thanks.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

21 September 2018

21/09/18

There are three levels of "probability" with si-clauses:

If I run. -- Si je cours. (Possible)

If I ran. -- Si je courais. (Hypothetical)

If I had run. -- Si j'avais couru. (Impossible, it already happened.)

This is pretty much parallel what you would use in English. 

Chris

Kwiziq community member

21 September 2018

21/09/18

So "if I could run" is a hypothetical case (#2). Therefore:

Si je pouvais courir. 

The other two cases are:

Si je peux courir. -- If I can run  

Si j'avais pu courir. -- If I could have run (If I had been able to run). 

Gregory

Kwiziq community member

18 July 2018

2 replies

Other types of "Si" clauses

I'm looking for further information on the other types of "Si" clauses. L'imparfait+conditionnel is just one type. What about "Si" clauses that are placed in the past--e.g. "If you had studied harder, you would have passed the test". Another type: "If you're able, come visit me."

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

19 July 2018

19/07/18

Hi Gregory,

The lesson is still under construction, so I will try and explain:

There are 3 types -

1.  To express a likely situation using the present ------future/imperative

Si tu cours, tu auras ton train = If you run, you'll catch your train 

Si tu peux, va chercher les enfants à l'école =If you can, go and fetch the children at school

2. To express an unlikely situation using the imperfect ------conditional present

Si tu lui parlais gentiment, il te répondrait = If you spoke nicely to him, he would answer you

Si tu travaillais à l'école, tu réussirais = I you worked at school, you'd succeed

3. To express an impossible situation (as in the past) using the PluPerfect -----Conditional past

Si tu lui avais répondu gentiment, il t'aurait répondu = If you had spoken to him nicely, he would have answered you

Si vous leur aviez donné de meilleures instructions ils ne se seraient pas perdus = If you'd given them better instructions, they wouldn't have got lost

Hope this helps

Gregory

Kwiziq community member

19 July 2018

19/07/18

Thanks! This is very helpful. Good to know the lesson is coming along...I thought I’d missed something somewhere.

David

Kwiziq community member

30 June 2018

3 replies

Could be clearer?

The lesson doesn't highlight the point that you can swap clauses around - so e.g. start with conditional, then go to imperfect or v.v.  Whichever way though, what changes is the position of 'si' and hence if you are using the imperfect as first or second verb.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

1 July 2018

1/07/18

The Si-clause always uses the imperfect whereas the conditional is used only in the main clause. If you switch the order of clauses, naturally, the verb forms switch places too, so that the imperfect remakns with the Si-clause and the conditional with the main clause.

-- Chris.

David

Kwiziq community member

1 July 2018

1/07/18

Hi - tks. I think I got that - my point was that hadn't been made clear in the lesson.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

2 July 2018

2/07/18

Hi David, I see what you mean. There is only one example which has the si-clause come second. Maybe a couple more examples and a sentence alerting the reader to this fact would help.

-- Chris.

Winifred

Kwiziq community member

18 March 2018

1 reply

Link to a lesson on the conditional présent.

Conditional présent looks like infinitive + endings for the imperfect, but there seem to be exceptions - e.g. être.

Chris

Kwiziq community member

19 March 2018

19/03/18

Hi Winfred,

here is the link to one of the conditional-lessons in the library. I think it serves as a good starting point to explore irregular verbs as well.

Greetings, -- Chris.

https://progress.lawlessfrench.com/revision/glossary/verb-tense-mood/the-french-present-conditional-le-conditionnel-present

Barbara

Kwiziq community member

2 July 2017

2 replies

This lesson is a bit con

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

4 July 2017

4/07/17

Bonjour Barbara, Did you mean to say confusing? Please let us know what you're having trouble with and we'll do our best to help.

David

Kwiziq community member

30 June 2018

30/06/18

Laura - please see my comment.

David

Meghna

Kwiziq community member

2 April 2017

2 replies

What is venait?

Ce serait génial si Joseph venait avec nous is marked as the correct answer - is venait the conditionnel présent for venir? Can you guide me to the lesson showing conditionnel présent conjugation for venir pls?

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

4 April 2017

4/04/17

Hi Meghna The conjugation table for venir is here: https://progress.lawlessfrench.com/revision/grammar/verbs/venir

Venait is l'imparfait not conditionnel .

Hope that helps!

Meghna

Kwiziq community member

4 April 2017

4/04/17

Thank you Gruff for taking the time to respond. I figured it out now. I was conditioned to expect imparfait in the first part and conditionnel in second, hence my confusion. Realized this one had the ´Si in second part of sentence and it became crystal clear.
Thinking...