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 other 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 other clause uses Le Conditionnel Présent (achèterait).
Hypothetical sentences in French
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 apartment in Paris.
Note that to express hypotheses in French, you'll use L'Imparfait after si, and Le Conditionnel Présent in the other part of the sentence.
Also, there are two ways to order the clauses:
- Si clause [+ L'Imparfait] + clause in Le Conditionnel
- Clause in Le Conditionnel + si clause [+ L'Imparfait]
You can never use Le Passé Composé nor other past tenses in this context.
See other uses of L'Imparfait:
Expressing continuing action with the imperfect tense in French (L'Imparfait)
Expressing past habits or repeated actions with the imperfect tense in French (L'Imparfait)
And to see how to conjugate in L'Imparfait:
Conjugate regular verbs in the imperfect tense in French (L'Imparfait) and Conjugate être in the imperfect tense in French (L'Imparfait)
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