Sequence of tenses – concordance des temps


Let's Define It!

What's the *sequence of tenses*?

We call this la concordance des temps in French.

The sequence of tenses as it is known in English is a grammatical mechanism through which the verb in the subordinate clause must be conjugated in a specific tense because of the tense of the verb in the  main clause (or vice versa).

In French, there are some specific sentence structures requiring the sequence of tenses to take effect.

For example, in a reported speech, the verb tenses move on step further in the past.

Also, in what is known as if clause statements in English, the sequence of tenses happens when the si clause in the subordinate clause gets to be in a given tense because the verb in the subordinate is a certain way. -->

Si tu viens, je te donnerai un petit cadeau.

As the verb in  the si clause is in the present, the one in the main clause gets to be present.


Let's Pronounce It!

What does it sound like in French?


Let's Have an Example or Two!

Can a little reinforcement do the trick?

Here are few sentences where you can witness the  concordance de temps in action:

  • Si je suis malade, j'irai à l'hôpital. If I am sick, I will go to the hospital. --> While the verb tense in the si clause is in the future simple, the tense in the main clause is in the present simple.

  • Charles dit toujours: "Je suis malade". --> Charles disait toujours qu'il était malade. The verbs in the reported speech is moved on step back in the pas.

  • Si Martine avait de l'argent, elle acheterait un t-shirt. If Martine had some money, she would buy a t-shirt.


Let's Take a Quiz!

What did you learn?