The Past Conditional Tense

The past conditional tense is used to refer to the same kinds of events as the conditional, but simply in the past. Don't let its construction fool you. Despite the fact that it looks complex with its auxiliary construction, it is a simple reference to past events in French. In English, this is often accomplished by saying “would have,” for example:

<tgroup cols="2"> <colspec colname="col1" colnum="1" colwidth="60%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col2" colnum="2" colwidth="40%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <tbody> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>Nous aurions voulu aller au théâtre</emphasis>.</p></td> <td><p>We would have liked to go to the theater.</p></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> <p>Keep in mind that the past conditional tense is a past tense; don't fall into the trap of thinking it's in the future because the formation of the auxiliary verb reminds you of the future. Learn to recognize when <emphasis>avoir</emphasis> or <emphasis>être</emphasis> is being conjugated in the conditional; the distinct sounds of the conjugated verb endings should help (see the following section). Then let the past participle remind you that this is occurring in the conditional past and doesn't have anything to do with the future tense.</p> <p>Note that when the main clause is used in the past conditional, the subordinate clause must be conjugated using the <emphasis>plus-que-parfait</emphasis> (see Chapter 12). If used with any other tenses, the statements just wouldn't make sense:</p> <table frame="none" width="100%"> <title/> <tgroup cols="2"> <colspec colname="col1" colnum="1" colwidth="60%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <colspec colname="col2" colnum="2" colwidth="40%" colsep="0" rowsep="0" align="left"/> <tbody> <tr> <td><p><emphasis>J'aurais été riche si j'avais acheté cette propriété</emphasis>.</p></td> <td><p>I would have been rich if I had bought this property.</p></td> </tr> </tbody> </tgroup> </table> <!--/gc--> <div id="pagination"><ul><li class="prev"><a href="" title="Forming the Conditional Tense">Forming the Conditional Tense</a></li><li class="next"><a href="" title="Forming the Past Conditional Tense">Forming the Past Conditional Tense</a> </li></ul></div></div> <div id="coda"> <div id="rel"><div class="n5">Related Articles</div><ul> <li><a href="" zT="18/1YL/Zn"> The Past Conditional Tense - French </a></li> <li><a href="" zT="18/1YL/Zn"> Compound Tenses and Moods - French Verbs </a></li> <li><a href="" zT="18/1YL/Zn"> Verb Tenses in Spanish – An Overview of Spanish Verb Tenses </a></li> <li><a href="" zT="18/1YL/Zn"> Let's Talk Tenses - Grammar and Style </a></li> <li><a href="" zT="18/1YL/Zn"> Future Perfect - Futur antérieur - French Grammar + Pronunciation... </a></li> </ul></div> <div id="sec"><div class="n5">Read More Forming the Conditional Tense</div><ul><ul class="col1"><li ><a href="">Uses of the Conditional Tense</a></li> <li ><a href="">Using the Conditional Tense to Be Polite</a></li> <li ><a href="">Forming the Conditional Tense</a></li> <li class="btO">The Past Conditional Tense</li> </ul><ul class="col2"><li ><a href="">Forming the Past Conditional Tense</a></li> <li ><a href="">The Verb Devoir in the Conditional Tense</a></li> <li ><a href="">Activité 15</a></li> </ul></ul></div> </div> <script>if(zSbL<1)zSbL=3;zSB(2);zSbL=0</script> </div> <div id="widgets"><script type="text/javascript">if(z336>0){w('<div id="adB">'+ap[0]+at[4]+as[0]);adunit('','','',ch,gs,300,250,'1','bb',3);w('</div>')}if(z155>0){w('<div id="adP">'+ap[0]+at[4]+as[0]);adunit('','','',ch,gs,336,155,'1','ps',4);w('</div>')}</script> <div id="pg" class="pane"><div class="n3">Shopping</div><div class="cntnr"><a href=""><img src=""></a><h4><a href="">THE EVERYTHING LEARNING FRENCH BOOK</a></h4><p><a href="">By Bruce Sallee and David Hebert</a></p><div id="fp"><a href="">Buy This Book</a></div></div></div> <div id="toc" class="pane"><div class="n3">French Sections</div><ul><li><a href="">Pronouncing and Writing French</a></li> <li><a href="">Using Everyday Expressions</a></li> <li><a href="">Developing a Basic Vocabulary</a></li> <li><a href="">Understanding Articles</a></li> <li><a href="">Using Nouns</a></li> <li><a href="">Subject Pronouns and Forming Present Tense Verbs</a></li> <li><a href="">Asking Questions and Giving Orders</a></li> <li><a href="">Negating Words and Phrases</a></li> <li><a href="">Objects, Prepositions, and Pronouns</a></li> <li><a href="">Using Adjectives</a></li> <li><a href="">Understanding Adverbs</a></li> <li><a href="">Forming Past-Tense Verbs</a></li> <li><a href="">Using Reflexive Verbs</a></li> <li><a href="">Forming the Future Tense</a></li> <li><a href="">Forming the Conditional Tense</a></li> <li><a href="">Understanding the Subjunctive Mood</a></li> <li><a href="">Traveling in French-Speaking Countries</a></li> <li><a href="">Studying and Working in French-Speaking Countries</a></li> <li><a href="">Family, Friends, and You</a></li> <li><a href="">Your House or Apartment</a></li> <li><a href="">Answer Key</a></li> <li><a href="">French-to-English Glossary</a></li> <li><a href="">English-to-French Glossary</a></li> <li><a href="">Verb Conjugation Tables</a></li> </ul></div></div> <script type="text/javascript">zCi();validateForms();</script> <div id="abf" style="padding-right:0"><ol class="crumbtrail"><li class="home"><a href="">Home</a></li><li><a href="">French</a></li><li><a href="">Forming the Conditional Tense</a></li><li>The Past Conditional Tense</li></ol></div> <div id="aboutinfo" class="hlist"><div id="morefrom"><h6>Visit other sites:</h6><ul><li><a href="" rel="nofollow">Calorie Count</a></li><li class="last"><a href="" rel="nofollow"></a></li></ul></div> <ul id="siteinfo"><li><a href="">SiteMap</a></li><li><a href="" rel="nofollow">Help</a></li><li><a href="" rel="nofollow">Privacy Policy</a></li><li><a href="" rel="nofollow">Your Ad Choices</a></li><li class="last"><a href="" rel="nofollow">Contact Us</a></li></ul> <ul id="companyinfo"><li class="last"><a href=" " rel="nofollow">Buy Books</a></li></ul><div id="disclaimer"> </div></div></div> <script type="text/javascript"><!-- zPxA[zPxC]=new Image();zPxA[zPxC++].src=""; 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