The Conditional Tense
The conditional tense in French is often translated by the use of "would" in English. For example:
En ce cas il le trouverait facilement
Similarly, the conditional perfect tense is "would
However, this is not always the case. Here are
two examples of incorrect translations of the French
conditional tense which I have come across
In a contract for the supply of computer products and services:
"...ne s'applique pas aux produits qui
seraient intégrés au présent
contrat au titre de l'article 9.3 ci-après."
In a court decision on a case involving the poaching of employees (débauchage):
...la société offrait aux salariés
qui la rejoindraient des postes plus élevés.
In these two examples the conditional is appropriate in the French, as the sentences refer to hypothetical situations: the possible addition of new products in the first example, and the possibility of employees agreeing to work for the company, in the second.
However, in English the use of "would" is not appropriate.
In the first example, the French conditional should be translated by "may be":
...shall not apply to any product that may be added to this agreement in accordance with article 9.3 below.
While in the second example I suggest adding the verb "agree":
...the company offered employees who agreed to join it higher level positions.
In French legal documents (statements of claim, conclusions, judgments) that refer to disputed facts the conditional tense is often used when a fact has not been established.
This technique is also used by journalists when reporting unascertained facts. Its use can also suggest that a statement or claim is in fact untrue.
Let us consider the following example:
"le jeune homme aurait volé le sac à main de la vieille dame."
Once again, the construction "would" is inappropriate here (the young man would have stolen the old lady's handbag).
In English, the best solution would be to add an adverb such as 'apparently' or 'allegedly'.
For instance, apparently could be used in normal
speech or when reporting unproven facts:
'Allegedly' would be appropriate in a legal document, such as a defence document written by the young man's lawyer:
"the young man allegedly stole the old lady's handbag".
The use of 'allegedly' also suggests that this may not in fact be true.
So, in the case
of the poaching of employees, "la société
défenderesse aurait débauché
9 employés" could be translated
as "the defendant allegedly poached
(or hired away) 9 employees".
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