If you’re anything like me, part of the excitement of learning a new language is imagining yourself in the places you will visit and fall in love with while speaking it. In this article, you will imagine what you would do if you were to take a trip to a francophone destination, while being introduced to the conditional mode, which is used, among other things, to talk about hypothetical situations. By the end, you’ll be able to talk succinctly about how your ideal trip would unfold in French, using the most commonly used verbs related to travel.


I invite you to “travel” with me through an introduction to the French conditional present- le conditionnel présent- while planning your next journey.


Hypothetical situations: If you could live in any francophone country, which would you choose?


If I could live in any francophone country, it would be France, because the different regions are distinct enough from each other that even without leaving the country, you can enjoy a variety of landscapes, cuisines, and accents. One of the main uses of the conditional tense in French is to talk about what you would do given certain conditions, and this is what we’ll focus on today. Consider the following question about which francophone country you would live in if you could live anywhere, as well as my answer:


Dans quel pays francophone vivriez-vous si vous pouviez habiter n’importe où?

If you could live in any francophone country, which would you choose? 


J’habiterais en France. Et vous?

I would live in France. And you?


I’ll explain how to form the structure later, for now, just observe the patterns. Try to answer the question for yourself, repeating the verb I use.


Travel is always a good excuse to try new and delicious foods.


Si vous étiez en voyage, que mangeriez-vous et que boiriez-vous?

If you were on holiday, what would you eat and drink? 


Je mangerais des croissants et je boirais du café.

I would eat croissants and cafe drinks.  


Practice question: Would you go for waffles (les gaufres), a vegetarian quiche, delicate macarons, or a hearty tajine?



Rest and recharge: Where would you stay on holiday?


Some of my best memories of travel came about through Couchsurfing because I got to stay with locals along my journey, and see a lot of new places while making friends. However, I also like a quiet private space to recharge after a long day, and this isn’t always possible when staying with people. When I know I’ll want time to myself, I usually prefer to book a room using Airbnb.


Si vous aviez le choix, vous (vous) logeriez où pendant votre séjour?

If you had the choice, where would you stay during your stay?


Je (me) logerais chez un habitant de la ville que je visite, ou réserverais une chambre sur Airbnb.

I would stay with a resident of the town that I visit, or reserve a room in an Airbnb.


Practice question: What’s your favorite place to stay when you travel? In a luxury hotel? Under the stars? With friends? Bed and breakfast? Using the structure that we have just learnt, answer this: If you had the choice where would you stay?


A language note: conditional statements with “si” and form


Let’s interrupt our travel-planning for a minute to make some observations about the structure of the questions and answers we’ve seen, and the form of the conditional tense.


If only: “Si + condition”


First, we set up the condition: if you had the choice, if you were on holiday, if you were able to live anywhere in the world (see translations in table below). In this part of the sentence we use the imperfect past, or l’imparfait, which you’ve probably already encountered as someone who has studied the language for a few weeks.


Si vous pouviez habiter n’importe où

If you were able to live anywhere

Si vous étiez en voyage

If you were traveling

Si vous aviez le choix

If you had the choice


When we talk about what we would do, we often use this conditional clause with “si” (if) to set up the condition(s) needed for us to behave in a certain way.


*Need a refresher on the difference between the imparfait and passé composé when talking about the past? Check out this video on my YouTube channel dedicated to French and English lessons.


What would be, would be: The conditional present


In the next part of the sentence, you say what you would do given the condition(s) you set up. For this you use the conditionnel. Let’s review the questions and answers we’ve seen in this article to make the pattern more evident if you haven’t spotted it yet:


Dans quel pays francophone vivriez-vous?

Je vivrais en France.

Que mangeriez-vous et que boiriez-vous?

Je mangerais des croissants et boirais du café.

Vous (vous) logeriez où pendant votre séjour?

Je me logerais chez un habitant de la ville ou réserverais une chambre sur Airbnb.


As you can see, the conditional form when the subject is “vous” ends in –iez and when it is “je”, it ends in –ais. These are tacked on to the conditional stem, which for regular verbs is super easy. For regular –er and –ir verbs such as manger, habiter, loger, rester, finir, grossir, and choisir, the stem is the infinitive. For –re verbs (prendre, boire, vivre), just remove the –e to get the conditional stem. Here is a breakdown of the first-person present conditional form for regular verbs:


Infinitive Congjugation
MANGER (to eat) Je mangerais (I would eat)  
CHOISIR (to choose) Je choisirais
BOIRE (to drink) Je boirais (I would drink)  


Not so hard is it? The tricky part of the conditional is that many common verbs (être, avoir, aller, venir, pouvoir, vouloir, devoir, among others) are irregular and don’t allow for you to find their stem using this method. Let’s look at this excerpt from my travel journal:


Si j’étais moins fatiguée par le trajet, je serais avec mes amis à la montagne. Nous pourrions faire un peu de randonnée, voudrions manger dans un petit restaurant avec une vue qui donne sur un beau paysage, et aurions de beaux souvenirs. Mais pas de chance, je tombe déjà de sommeil.


(If I were less tired by the journey, I would be with my friends at the mountain. We could do a little hiking, would want to eat in a little restaurant with a view of a gorgeous landscape, and would have beautiful memories. But tough luck, I’m already falling asleep.)


Do you recognize some of the common irregular verbs? Here is a summary of the conditional stems of irregular verbs in this paragraph:


Infinitive Conjugation
ETRE -> SER- Je serais (I would be) 
POUVOIR -> POURR- Nous pourrions (We could)    
VOULOIR -> VOUDR- Nous voudrions (We would want)   
AVOIR -> AUR- Nous aurions (We would have) 


Now that we have the stem, we just add on the ending depending on the subject. You clever readers may already have recognized that the endings for the conditional are the same as those for the imperfect. Just to make it clear, here is the conjugation of the verb “aimer” in the present conditional, with the endings highlighted:


Aimer (to love): Conditionnel present


Je (J’) / Tu


Il / Elle / on






Ils / Elles



Now that you have a grasp of the basic structure, let’s return to our story to tie it all together.



Profiter de son voyage: What would you do to make the most of your trip?


We usually have limited time when we go somewhere new, so we don’t want to waste a second on things that don’t interest us. Would you spend most of your time outdoors? Would you like guided walking tours? Would you prefer to visit historical monuments and museums? Are you a foodie in search of the unique flavors of the region? Would you make a strict plan, packing every hour with activities, or are you someone who would wander through unremarkable neighborhoods with no particular end in mind?


I’ve tried to make it at easy for you to answer as possible by starting potential sentences with verbs typically used in the context of travel (see table below). As for me, I like to wander and find beauty in everyday moments and settings. My favorite landscapes tend to be natural. Here is what I would do:


Je me promènerais dans les jardins parmi les fleurs et les arbres.

I would take walks in gardens among flowers and trees.


Je passerais du temps près de la montagne et de la mer.

I would spend time near the mountains and sea.


J’essaierais des boissons et des plats qu’on peut trouver seulement dans cette région.

I would try drinks and dishes that one can only find in this region.


Et vous? Qu’auriez-vous envie de faire?

And you? What would you want to do?


Idées (ideas)


Je visiterais (I would visit)…

Je goûterais (I would taste)…

Je regarderais (I would look at)…

J’irais (I would go)…

Je me promènerais (I would stroll/take walks)…

Je parlerais à (I would speak to)…


I encourage you to give this activity a try either in written form in the article discussion or as speaking practice on your own. By personalizing the responses, you will remember the new grammatical form better.


You took in a lot of new information today. You learned…


  • how to talk about hypothetical situations using conditional statements with “si”
  • a ‘formula’ of sorts: Si + (imparfait) -> conditionnel présent
  • how to form the conditional present of regular verbs
  • some irregular conditional stems for verbs relevant to travel stories
  • how to discuss plans for your very own voyages


What now? It’s up to you!


It’s great to have learned something new and I firmly believe that listening and reading attentively are essential to language acquisition, before we even say a word in our target language. That said, I also think it’s crucial to be active in the process and do something with your new knowledge early on. This is how you check whether you have really understood the concept and commit it to memory. Therefore, I encourage you to go through the article again and try to answer the questions posed throughout out loud if you haven’t already, before finishing up by writing out what you would do on your dream vacation.




Try to create your own questions in the future for even more practice. What would you do if you were offered the chance to live abroad for the next year? What would a typical day in your dream life be like? What would you do if you saw a stranger who needed help?


The possibilities are endless.


Feel free to comment or send me a message with your answers, and I’ll be curious to read about your plans and more than willing to give you feedback. Don’t underestimate the value of participating and producing answers to the questions yourself: it makes all the difference in what you will remember after you close this article.


Hero image by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash