Choosing the correct tense after si

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Choosing the correct tense after si

To express possible or probable conditions, we often resort to si (if) clauses.
Si Marcel veut réussir sa mission, il doit suivre les instructions de son patron. If Marcel wants to complete his mission, he must follow his manager’s instructions.
Si les extraterrestres étaient allés sur une autre planète, ils n’auraient pas connu Victor. If the aliens had gone to another planet, they would never have known Victor.
Expressions using si must respect the correct sequence of tenses:
•  To express a likelihood occurring: Si + 1st verb in present tense 2nd verb in present, future, or imperative
Si Muriel et Marcel suivent les conseils de Victor, ils réussiront leur mission.
If Muriel and Marcel follow Victor’s advice, they will complete their mission
(Si + present future)
S’ils ne suivent pas les conseils de Victor, ils ne peuvent pas réussir.
If they don’t follow Victor’s advice, they can’t succeed.
(Si + present present)
Si vous voulez réussir la mission, suivez les conseils de Victor !
If you want to complete the mission, follow Victor’s advice!
(Si + present imperative)
•  To express hypothetical or uncertain actions occurring: Si + 1st verb in imperfect 2nd verb in conditional.
Si Muriel et Marcel parlaient bien français, ils pourraient mieux comprendre les Parisiens.
If Muriel and Marcel spoke French well, they could understand the Parisians better.
(Si + imperfect conditional)
Victor serait moins fatigué s’il ne sortait pas tous les soirs en boîte de nuit.
Victor would be less tired if he didn’t go out to nightclubs every night.
(conditional, Si + imperfect)
Note: The structure Si + 1st verb in imperfect 2nd verb in conditional is used to give advice. This similar in usage to ‘If I were you...‘.
Si j’étais vous, je ne fumerais pas. If I were you, I wouldn’t smoke.
Si j’étais toi, je me reposerais. If I were you, I would rest.

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