FR conditional of travailler

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s_allard
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Re: FR conditional of travailler

Postby s_allard » Fri Apr 07, 2017 11:21 am

Fortheo has a good point. The goal here is to understand how SI clauses work in French. The links given are very useful, especially the CliffNotes one that highlights some interesting nuances.

I should also point out that the subject of hypothetical statements in French goes way beyond SI clauses. For a taste of this, here is a great link on using logical connectors (conjonctions et prépositions) for hypothetical clauses:

http://activitesfle.over-blog.com/article-36553636.html
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s_allard
Green Belt
Posts: 477
Joined: Sat Jul 25, 2015 3:01 pm
Location: Canada
Languages: French (N), English (N), Spanish (B2), Polish (beginner)
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Re: FR conditional of travailler

Postby s_allard » Fri Apr 07, 2017 2:38 pm

I note that most people here don't give a hoot about the syntax of French hypothetical clauses, but I couldn't let this little tantalizing nugget go by, especially since it received so many likes. I imagine more people know about the subtleties of French verb syntax than I thought.

Arnaud wrote:Si j'aurais su, j'aurais pas venu ;)

(If I would have known, I would have come)

Arnaud undoubtedly knows that here in Quebec this sort of sentence is used to make fun of uneducated speakers of French. There are supposedly two grammatical booboos here. First the conditionnel passé verb form j'aurais su after si instead of j'avais su and then the auxiliary aurais (avoir) instead of serais (être). I'll leave the second so-called mistake for another time and look at the first one in the context of the discussion of the thread.

This so-called mistake also has the following form:

Si je saurais, je viendrais (If I would know, I would come)

All French grammar books stigmatize this as a shameful and common mistake. For example, the very conservative Office québécois de la langue française writes on its website:

Une erreur fréquente consiste à utiliser le conditionnel après si dans la subordonnée exprimant la condition, par exemple : Je viendrais si tu voudrais. Cette erreur est logique, en quelque sorte, puisque les deux événements représentés par les verbes sont hypothétiques.

What is interesting is that the Office recognizes that this so-called mistake is actually very logical. In fact, this is more logical, in my opinion, than using the imparfait si je savais, which is the proper rule. Here is the convoluted explanation from the Office:

Cependant, en français, le temps des verbes d'une phrase hypothétique construite avec si respecte l'ordre chronologique condition-conséquence : la condition venant avant la conséquence, elle ne peut être qu'au passé ou au présent (et non au conditionnel ou au futur), la conséquence, elle, ne pouvant être qu'au futur, qu'il s'agisse du futur simple, du futur antérieur, du conditionnel présent ou du conditionnel passé, ou d’un présent à valeur de futur.

So, we see that users spontaneously tend to use the conditionnel instead of some reference to an imaginary past. But the rules of prescriptive French grammar are the rules. But what is really interesting is that if we drop the SI and say:

J'aurais su, je serais venu.
Je saurais, je viendrais.


These are perfectly good forms of French with the exact same meaning as above and are very common in the spoken language. The problem has always been the presence of the SI and a very arbitrary rule governing verb tense or form sequences.
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