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How to say COULD in French
Pouvoir – Present Conditional
The English word could is often expressed in French using the conditional. The conditional is used to refer to hypothetical events that are not guaranteed to happen.
To express could in the conditional, you have to use the verb pouvoir. Click here for a lesson on the present conditional.
|je pourrais||nous pourrions|
|tu pourrais||vous pourriez|
|il – elle – on pourrait||ils – elles pourraient|
👉 Je ne pourrais jamais vivre en ville.
👉 I could never live in the city.
👉 Pourrais-tu allumer le four?
👉 Could you turn on the oven?
👉 Est-ce qu’elle pourrait venir vers 17h00?
👉 Could she come around 5:00 pm?
👉 Nous pourrions aller au parc.
👉 We could go to the park.
👉 Pourriez-vous m’aider?
👉 Could you help me?
👉 Ils pourraient partager les frais.
👉 They could share the costs.
Pouvoir – Si Clauses – Imperfect Tense
The conditional is often used when the outcome of an event depends on certain conditions being met. When the word could follows si, you need to use the imperfect tense. Using the conditional in this context would be incorrect.
Second conditional si clauses follow a strict pattern regarding tenses. It doesn’t matter whether you begin the si clause with the imperfect or the conditional, but you must follow si with the imperfect. Click here for a lesson on second conditional si clauses.
|1st verb conditional||si… 2nd verb imperfect|
|Si… 1st verb imperfect||2nd verb conditional|
👉 Je ferais un grand voyage si je pouvais.
👉 I would take a big trip if I could.
👉 Si tu pouvais, irais-tu voir ta famille?
👉 If you could, would you go to see your family?
👉 Ce serait gentil si tu pouvais m’aider.
👉 It would be nice if you could help me.
👉 Nous pourrions venir avec vous si notre chien pouvait nous accompagner.
👉 We could come with you if our dog could accompany us.
👉 Si vous pouviez tout recommencer, qu’est-ce que vous changeriez?
👉 If you could do it all over again, what would you change?
👉 Ils viendraient s’ils pouvaient.
👉 They would come if they could.
Pouvoir – Imperfect – Could in the past
When you want to use the word could, and you’re making reference to the past, you need to use the imperfect tense. It means one used to be able to do (or not do) something in the past. There’s no indication that the event had a beginning and an end. Click here for a lesson on the imperfect tense.
👉 Je ne pouvais rien voir.
👉 I could not see anything.
👉 Tu pouvais acheter tout ce que tu voulais.
👉 You could buy anything you wanted.
👉 Il ne pouvait pas faire du yoga.
👉 He could not do yoga.
👉 Nous ne pouvions pas bouger.
👉 We could not move.
👉 Quand vous aviez vingt ans, vous pouviez sortir tous les soirs.
👉 When you were twenty years old, you could go out every night.
👉 Elles ne pouvaient pas s’en empêcher.
👉 They could not help themselves / They could not help it.