You need to learn the conjugation of avoir in the conditional mood.
In the image, the text in red represents avoir conjugated in the conditional mood.
But, what about the second part in blue?
This part represents the past participle. You have probably seen some of them before?
One area of application for the past participles is le passé composé.
In general, they are easy to conjugate. For instance:
- ER-verbs, for instance regarder: Regardé
- IR-verbs, for instance grandir: Grandi
- RE-verbs, for instance entendre: Entendu
However, there are some irregular verbs that will have irregular endings.
You have probably studied them before. Let’s look at some of them:
- Faire (fait): J’aurais fait
- Pouvoir (pu): J’aurais pu
- Voir (vu): J’aurais vu
- Avoir (eu): J’aurais eu
This image has the same construction as the one for avoir.
The text in red represents être conjugated in the conditional mood, and the text in blue represents the past participles.
The auxiliary is être for 17 verbs. You are probably already familiar with them. However, let’s refresh our knowledge with this image:
Do you remember how these verbs agree in gender and number?
I can show you how it works with 4 examples (don’t worry if you don’t understand it right away. There are exercises in the end of this article that focuses on the agreement of gender and number):
A man would have returned:
- Je serais retourné
No change. That is, revenu is in its original form.
We are referring to a man who is alone.
A woman would have returned:
- Je serais retournée
We add an e to express the feminine form.
A group, which contains at least one man, would have returned:
- Ils seraient retournés
We need to add an s to express the plural form.
A group of women would have returned:
- Elles seraient retournées
We need to add both an e and s. Why?
We are referring to a group of women (elles)
Areas of application
What is a si-clause?
- Si j’avais su, je ne serais pas arrivé: If I had known, I would not have arrived.
This is a si-clause where the text in bold is conjugated in conditional perfect.
There are 3 versions of the si-clauses. We’ll focus on the one with conditional perfect.
However, I want to list all of them to give you a complete picture:
- The present tense (le présent de l’indicatif) + the present tense or the future tense (le futur simple)
- Je me demande (present tense) si tu viendras (future tense): I wonder if you will come.
Note: You can use the present tense in both parts of the sentence if it makes more sense.
- Imperfect (l’imparfait) + Conditional (le conditionnel présent)
- Si j’avais beaucoup d’argent (imperfect), je voyagerais (conditional) au Japon: If I had a lot of money, I would go to Japan.
- Pluperfect (plus-que-parfait) + Conditional perfect (le conditionnel passé)
- Si j’avais fait (pluperfect) la même chose, il aurait trouvé (conditional perfect) un autre employé.
So, number 3 is the focus of this lesson.
We can actually change the order of the phrase. For instance:
- Il aurait trouvé (conditional perfect) un autre employé, si j’avais fait (pluperfect) la même chose.
Let’s look at another example:
- J’aurais réussi si vous m’aviez aidé: I would have succeeded if you had helped him.
Things that could have happened
We can be a bit more creative with this one. For instance:
- J’aurais pu économiser plus d’argent avant le voyage: I could have saved more money before the trip.
We could also change the before against a but:
- J’aurais fini la tâche mais il n’y avait pas assez de temps: I would have finished the task but there was not enough time.
We could also say:
- Tu aurais réussi avec un peu d’effort: You would have succeeded with a little effort.
Now, it’s your turn.
You can try to create a couple of sentences about things that could have happened.
I have prepared some exercises with more examples in the end of the article if you need some inspiration :-).
You can use conditional perfect to write about unconfirmed news.
This is an area of application that makes sense. Why? Because often, it’s difficult to confirm the cause of an accident. It can also be difficult to confirm the perpetrator of a crime.
Let’s look at a couple of examples:
- Cette voiture aurait pu causer l’accident: This car could have caused the accident.
This phrase provides the reader with a potential cause of the accident. A newspaper could also write:
- Un crime aurait eu lieu hier: A crime allegedly took place yesterday
What do you think about the translation of this phrase? It’s not the same grammatical tense, right?
In English, we’ll usually choose another grammatical construction.
Now you are familiar with the link between conditional perfect and news reporting. This aspect is very important when it comes to understanding a different language.
Comment: We are referring to a woman.
We are using être as our auxiliary.
Thus, we need to add an e to express the feminine form.
Comment: We are referring to several women.
We are still using être as our auxiliary.
Therefore, we need to add an e and an s to express the feminine- and plural form.
Si-clauses are quite easy to learn in theory.
However, in practice it becomes difficult.
There are so many different verbs. There are also many different grammatical constructions.
Do you remember the rules for si-clauses in relation to conditional perfect?
- Pluperfect + Conditional perfect.
Therefore, the correct answer is:
- J’aurais fait un gateau si on m’avait payé d’avance
Oh no, another si-clause 🙂
Like I said before, we need to practice using them with different verbs (past participles).
We also need to practice with different contexts.
Why is this so important?
This grammatical construction is very useful. You’ll be able to express yourself on an advanced level after having mastered it.
It’s easy to get confused when it comes to irregular endings.
Faire will use avoir as its auxiliary.
Thus, there is no need to agree the ending of fait in relation to number and gender.
Ok, devenir is an irregular verb.
But does it belong to être or avoir?
The answer is être. Thus, we need to conjugate devenir with nous serions.
Now we need to figure out the past participle.
It’s devenu. We also need to add an s. We are referring to a group of people, nous.
Why did I want to include this verb? I’ve seen that students (and myself) struggle with this verb when it comes to auxiliary.
It’s a very important verb, but for some reason we forget to attach it to être.
Ok, what is difficult about this phrase?
Tomber is a regular verb and easy to conjugate.
However, tomber is another verb that we tend to forget when considering auxiliaries.
It belongs to être. Thus, tomber needs to agree in gender and number.
Let’s conclude this section by mentioning that mourir (to die) and naître (to be born) also belongs to être.
Do you have a question? Leave a comment, I enjoy answering questions as it helps me to become better in French.