Les “si” n’aiment pas les “rai(s)”.
lay see nemm pah lay ray. Click below to hear this!
Well, it’s clear that somebody doesn’t like somebody here, but the sad fact is that there’s no easy translation for this sentence. It’s a French-speaking schoolkid’s rule of thumb, governing the correct sequence of tenses in certain sentences.
So, since our specialty is taking things apart, let’s do that to this.
Si is if. In English, we say things like if it rains and if he came. We don’t say if he would come (an English-speaker’s careless mistake) or if it will rain (a French-speaker’s mistake based on confusion with when instead of if).
The rule is very similar in French. The verb that follows si can’t be in the future tense or the conditional mood. That’s where rai(s) comes in. The usual ending for a future-tense verb in the first person singular (je, I) is -rai. The usual ending for a conditional-mood verb in the first person singular is -rais. Neither one of them is normally used after si in French.
The place for the future or the conditional is in the other half of the sentence. So in French, we say:
S’il pleut, le pique-nique sera annulé.
If it rains, the picnic will be cancelled.
S’il venait, je serais obligé de le voir.
If he came, I would be obliged to see him.
The first sentence uses the future, the second uses the conditional–but neither, right after the si. It’s a rule of thumb, so I have no doubt that one of you will find an exception. Have at it. But remember that this is a great, simple rule to keep in mind when you are struggling with sequence of tenses.
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