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[Sequence of tenses] – Examples

Here are examples of “if clause” statements in French that demonstrate the sequence of tenses:

  1. Main Clause (Present): Si tu viens (If you come)
    Subordinate Clause: je te verrai (I will see you)
    Combined Sentence: Si tu viens, je te verrai. (If you come, I will see you.)
  2. Main Clause (Imperfect Tense): Si j’avais le temps (If I had time)
    Subordinate Clause: je t’aiderais (I would help you)
    Combined Sentence: Si j’avais le temps, je t’aiderais. (If I had time, I would help you.)
  3. Main Clause (Past Perfect): Si tu avais fini (If you had finished)
    Subordinate Clause: tu aurais réussi (you would have succeeded)
    Combined Sentence: Si tu avais fini, tu aurais réussi. (If you had finished, you would have succeeded.)

Example of sequence of tenses involving direct and indirect speeches:

  • Charles dit toujours: “Je suis malade”. –> Charles disait toujours qu’il était malade. The verbs in the reported speech are moved one step back in the past.

In these examples, the verb tense in the subordinate clause (si clause) is adjusted according to the sequence of tenses. The present tense in the main clause is followed by the future tense in the subordinate clause, the imperfect tense in the main clause is followed by the conditional tense in the subordinate clause, and the past perfect tense in the main clause is followed by the past conditional tense in the subordinate clause. This sequence ensures the correct tense alignment and conveys the conditional relationship between the clauses.

Here are examples of sequence of tenses/moods involving the indicative and subjunctive moods:

  1. Main Clause (Present): Je doute (I doubt)
    Subordinate Clause (Subjunctive): qu’elle soit chez elle maintenant (that she is home now.)
    Combined Sentence: Je doute qu’elle soit chez elle maintenant. (I doubt that she is home now.)
  2. Main Clause (Present): Elle n’est pas certaine (She is not certain)
    Subordinate Clause (Subjunctive): que sa mère vienne ce soir (that her mother will come tonight.)
    Combined Sentence: Elle n’est pas certaine que sa mère vienne ce soir. (She is not certain that her mother will come tonight.)