I would have a big house if I could afford it

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steven

Kwiziq community member

24 May 2018

4 replies

I would have a big house if I could afford it

"J'aurais une grande maison si j'en avais les moyens"

Why is the imparfait "avais" used here? "Could" is conditional, so why are we not using "pourrais" here? 

This question relates to:
French lesson "Conjugate avoir in le Conditionnel Présent (conditional mood)"

Cécile

Kwiziq language super star

25 May 2018

25/05/18

Hi Steven ,

In English, 'could' can be used as a past tense as well as a conditional so can also mean 'was able to'. Look at the following examples:

I could hear Robert play the flute in the next room.

Mozart could play the piano blindfolded.

I could leave work early today as I had a doctor's appointment.

In all these cases 'could' can be replaced 'was able' or 'was allowed' in the last sentence.

This is the case in the example you mention - 

I would have a big house if I was able to afford it.

Hope this helps!

 

Chris

Kwiziq community member

25 May 2018

25/05/18

Hi steven,

French follows its own rules, and translating from English 1:1 won't always land you on the mark.

The rule for "If"-sentence can be summarized like this:

Case 1: expressing a possibility in the present
Si clause: present tense; main clause: present tense or future tense
Si tu veux tu peux le faire. -- If you want, you can do it.
Si j'ai de l'argent, je acheterai une voiture. -- If I have money I will by a car.

Case 2: expressing an unlikely possibility in the presen
Si clause: imparfait; main clause: conditionnel présent
Si j'avais de l'argent, j'acheterais une voiture. -- If I had money, I would by a car.

Case 3: expressing a missed possibility in the past
Si clause: plus-que parfait; main clause: conditionnel passé
Si j'avais eu de l'argent, j'aurais acheté une voitre. -- If I had had money, I would have bought a car.

I hope that helps, -- Chris (not a native speaker).

steven

Kwiziq community member

30 May 2018

30/05/18

Hi Cécile, 

That did help. Thank you! :) 

steven

Kwiziq community member

30 May 2018

30/05/18

Chris,

That was a nice breakdown and it made a lot of sense. Thank you!

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