Si Clauses: Conditionals

French if then clauses
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Propositions conditionnelles

Si clauses, also known as conditionals or conditional sentences, are if-then constructions that express a condition to be met in order for a certain result to occur. The names can be misleading because not all conditionals include a verb in the conditional. This is because the names don’t refer to that verb mood, but rather to the fact each conditional sentence includes a condition, something that the result is dependent upon.

Conditional sentences are divided into three types, depending on whether the condition is likely, unlikely, or impossible. Each type has a specific combination of verb tenses and moods – click for more details.

     Condition is…   Si … (If …) (Then …)
First conditional  
  Potentiel
(Likely)
  Présent ou passé composé
(Present or present perfect)
Présent, futur ou impératif
(Present, future, or imperative)
Second conditional  
  Irréel du présent
(Unlikely)
  Imparfait
(Past progressive)
Conditionnel
(Conditional)
Third conditional  
  Irréel du passé
(Impossible)
  Plus-que-parfait
(Past perfect)
Conditionnel passé
(Conditional perfect)

  Conditional sentence rules

1) The verb combinations are very strict. In a conditional sentence, the present tense cannot be paired with the conditional, or the future with the imperfect. Memorizing these pairs is an essential task made easier by the fact that they are similar in French and English.

2) The word "then" is optional in English, and has no equivalent in French:

If you’re tired, (then) go to bed.   Si tu es fatigué, va au lit.

3) As long as si / "if" stays in front of the correct verb form, the order of the clauses in all three types of conditionals can be reversed with absolutely no change in meaning.

Go to bed if you’re tired.   Va au lit si tu es fatigué.
Quiz: Si clauses

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French si clauses

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