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="http://www.netplaces.com/french/forming-the-conditional-tense/forming-the-conditional-tense-2.htm" title="Forming the Conditional Tense">Forming the Conditional Tense</a></li><li class="next"><a href="http://www.netplaces.com/french/forming-the-conditional-tense/forming-the-past-conditional-tense.htm" title="Forming the Past Conditional Tense">Forming the Past Conditional Tense</a> </li></ul></div></div> <div 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class="col1"><li ><a href="http://www.netplaces.com/french/forming-the-conditional-tense/uses-of-the-conditional-tense.htm">Uses of the Conditional Tense</a></li> <li ><a href="http://www.netplaces.com/french/forming-the-conditional-tense/using-the-conditional-tense-to-be-polite.htm">Using the Conditional Tense to Be Polite</a></li> <li ><a href="http://www.netplaces.com/french/forming-the-conditional-tense/forming-the-conditional-tense-2.htm">Forming the Conditional Tense</a></li> <li class="btO">The Past Conditional Tense</li> </ul><ul class="col2"><li ><a href="http://www.netplaces.com/french/forming-the-conditional-tense/forming-the-past-conditional-tense.htm">Forming the Past Conditional Tense</a></li> <li ><a href="http://www.netplaces.com/french/forming-the-conditional-tense/the-verb-devoir-in-the-conditional-tense.htm">The Verb Devoir in the Conditional Tense</a></li> <li ><a href="http://www.netplaces.com/french/forming-the-conditional-tense/activit-15.htm">Activité 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