The Romance conditional a mood or a tense?

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Daniel_Wilkins, Jan 27, 2006.

  1. Daniel_Wilkins New Member

    English-United Kingdom
    Moderator note: This question
    in the French and English grammar forum gave rise to a discussion about the status of the French conditionnel whether it is best regarded as a mode, a tense or maybe sometimes the one and sometimes the other.

    This discussion has become to abstract for the scope of the French and English grammar forum and has to touch historical questions which aren't within the scope of that forum.

    Moderators from both forums have therefore agreed to move this discussion with a broadened scope to EHL. The new scope of this thread is:
    - The origin of the Romance conditional
    - Evolution of its status and meaning
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 18, 2011
  2. Monsieur Hoole Senior Member

    Canada English
    Not really. There are only 3 subjonctif tenses: present, passe compose, and imparfait (mostly used in literary works).


    Hope this helps,

    M. H.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 18, 2011
  3. judkinsc

    judkinsc Senior Member

    English, USA
    The subjunctive basically is a conditional tense. Not in the sense of the formation of 'le conditionel" in French, but the idea of it.

    Latin would have just used the subjunctive, there was no "conditional" tense.
    The formations in Latin took either the subjunctive, or the present, imperfect, past, future, pluperfect....just like English.
    Latin had subjunctive tenses for all of those tenses, though, with the exception of the future. The future subjunctive is the same idea as the present subjunctive. Think of "If I were..."

    Another Note: The word "would" is from a modal English verb...there's no real equivalent. There's the conditional, if you want "would do (something in the future/preference)" ferais, but it's not really the same.
    Some conjunctions take the subjunctive form instead. Bien que can take the subjunctive or not. WF Dictionary gives "while..." for the subj. translation, and "although" for the indicative. I think the subj. usage has a sense of something "hanging".
  4. Aupick

    Aupick Senior Member

    Strasbourg, France
    UK, English
    Everyone knows that the subjunctive is a mood. Linguists will tell you that the conditional is also a mood (and not a tense). So, even though the subjunctive can have different tenses, the conditional can't really be one of them.

    (I know, that's not really an explanation, it's just a bunch of terminology. But who knows? It might be useful to someone. :rolleyes: )
  5. sylber Senior Member

    I like that. It's very much like English modals: you can't associate two modals in the same verb phrase (though some of my students see nothing wrong with, for instance: I won't can answer that question)
  6. Starcreator Senior Member

    Canada, English, French
    Canada, English
    T'as raison ( but if I have a statement that is conditional but is contingent upon an uncertain circumstance shouldn't there be a way to combine? It works the other way around (conditional subjunctive) : J'aimerais qu'il fasse mes devoirs. […]
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 18, 2011
  7. mirifica Senior Member

    Les Lilas
    Bonjour à tous,

    Petit rappel : il existe six modes en français :
    - l'indicatif (le mode de la réalité)
    - le subjontif (les faits envisagés)
    - le participe
    - l'infinitif
    - le conditionnel (qui peut-être remplacé au passé par le subjonctif (conditionnel 2ème forme).
    - l'impératif
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 18, 2011
  8. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    Le conditionnel est aujourd'hui considéré par la majorité des linguistes comme un temps de l'indicatif et non comme un mode… […]
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2011
  9. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    That is going a bit too far. The interpretation as a tense of the indicative only applies to very specific use of the verb form where it expresses future tense but the auxiliary verb of the future has to be in imparfait for tense-agreement reasons (click). This use is a residue of the original nature of futur simple and conditionnel as composite verb forms constructed with the infinitive + present of avoir and infinitive + imparfait of avoir, respectively: amare habeo > aimer ai > aimerai and amare habebam > aimer avais > amerais. I.e. the opinion of linguists who speak of a "tense of the indicative", if I understand them correctly, is that this use isn't properly a conditional expressing a reservation but a verb form which just happens to be formed the same way as the conditionnel.
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2011
  10. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    Maybe too far for you, but not for Grevisse. :p

    Le Bon Usage, §768, a, 1º:
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2011
  11. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    I think that this point may be an additional grist for the conditional's mill in the thread.
    Académie française takes a different stance on this:
    And so does Le Grand Robert:
  12. Maître Capello

    Maître Capello Mod et ratures

    Suisse romande
    French – Switzerland
    There are visibly two sides among grammars here, and the BDL is on Grevisse's ;):
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2011
  13. CapnPrep Senior Member

    There is a third side, which is that most verb forms express both tense and mood. The question "Is the conditionnel a tense or a mood?" presupposes a strict separation between the two categories that does not really exist in the language. I think that the majority of linguists/grammarians would agree on this, if they were not so fond of terminological arguments.
  14. Hulalessar

    Hulalessar Senior Member

    English - England
    Quite. I think there are two ways of classifying the forms verbs take.

    The first is imprecise, but useful for didactic purposes. It tries to avoid describing one language in terms of another.

    The second, needed if you are to engage in describing language, is precise, or rather aims to be precise but like most attempts at classification runs into difficulties because categories have an annoying tendency to overlap. It has a tendency to assume that all grammatical categories apply to all languages.

    I think it comes down to what a particular language emphasises and how it goes about achieving that emphasis. As a generalisation we can say for example that in Slavic languages whilst the verb can express time it is more interested in aspect, whereas in Romance languages whilst the verb can express aspect it is more interested in time - indeed the very fact that in Latin and the Romance languages (at least in Italian, Spanish and French) the same word is used for "time" and "tense" does I think confirm it. When I was taught French, Latin and Spanish and the word "aspect" never came up; however, Russian lessons did not get too far before it did.

    When it comes to the Romance languages (at least those I know) and the conditional you have to distinguish between form and function. There are forms of the verb which are traditionally, and for didactic purposes at least usefully, referred to as "the conditional." This form may be considered a mood distinct from both the indicative and subjunctive; if it is then "conditional subjunctive" has to be a contradiction in terms. The complication is, and this can perhaps be seen more clearly in Spanish than French, that (a) the conditional form may be used other than to express conditions and (b) conditions may be expressed without using the conditional form.
  15. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    One thing I've always wondered: The modern indicative imperfect comprises uses of the Latin indicative and subjunctive imperfect (the modern French subjonctif de l'imparfait is derived from a pluperfect form). Do the future-in-the-past and truely conditional uses of the conditionnel maybe also have two different origins, i.e. amare habebam > aimerais & amare haberem > aimerais?
    Latin Si haberem darem/donarem (both imperfect subjunctive)
    French Si j'avais, je donnerais (imperfect indicative & conditional)
  16. elianecanspeak

    elianecanspeak Senior Member

    by Lake Michigan
    English - EEUU
    This almost sounds like some southern American English dialects that use double modals like "might could + verb. . . ", meaning "it is possible that I might . . ."
  17. CapnPrep Senior Member

    Not sure what you mean by "also" here… The French imparfait does not have two different origins. Its functions correspond to the Latin imperfect indicative and imperfect subjunctive, but its form derives from the Latin imperfect indicative (with a lot of analogical/irregular evolution). E.g. amabam aimais and not amarem > aimais. As far as I know there is no trace of the Latin imperfect subjunctive form in French.

    Similarly, the conditionnel has taken over the functions of various Latin verb forms, but the form has a single origin: [infinitive + imperfect indicative of habere], e.g. amare habebamaimerais.

    In languages where the Latin imperfect subjunctive has survived (e.g. Spanish, Portuguese), its endings don't look anything like those of the conditional. So I don't think there is any support for the derivation amare haberem > aimerais.
  18. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Thanks Capn.

    Let me rephrase then: Irrespective of the morphological history of the French imparfait, succeeds at least in part the Latin subjunctive imperfect. Is there any evidence that two different forms, infinitive+indicative imperfect of habere and infinitive+subjunctive imperfect of habere, ever existed in VL/early Romance which were later succeeded by the conditional?
  19. Istriano

    Istriano Senior Member

    In Brazilian Portuguese,
    conditional is a tense called Futuro do pretérito (Future-in-the-past)
    because that is its original form:

    He will come. ---> He said he would come.
    Ele chegará. ---> Ele disse que chegaria.

    In Continental Portuguese it's called condicional (and I think it's considered a mood there, but I'm not sure).

    In Brazilian Portuguese, a conditional can be expressed with:

    1. Se eu tivesse dinheiro, viajaria (Future-in-the-Past) [the most common in writing]
    2. Se eu tivesse dinheiro, viajava (Past simple [imperfect])
    3. Se eu tivesse dinheiro, iria viajar (Future-in-the-Past of the verb IR (to go)+ the main verb)
    4. Se eu tivesse dinheiro, ia viajar (Past simple [imperfect] of the verb IR (to go) + the main verb) [the most common in speech]

    (If I had money, I would travel)

    Conditional would be a general syntactic name for all these 4 forms. :)
    All 4 forms mean the same.

    It's interesting that the -ir form is now used before the verb: viajaria-->ia viajar :)
    The simple tense form is being split morphologically into compounds. :)
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2011

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