In conversation, I wavered back and forth between using « peut » or « pourrait » in saying the following:

La nature même de votre travail fait que chacun de vous peut potentiellement, à tout moment, se retrouver victime de trauma.

Given the meaning of “potentiellement”, should I have opted for the conditional?

La nature même de votre travail fait que chacun de vous pourrait potentiellement, à tout moment, se retrouver victime de trauma.

  • Le mot "trauma" n'existe pas en francais - c'est "traumatisme"!
    – Vérace
    Jun 20, 2017 at 1:04
  • Hi. I (or those around me) use "trauma" like this all the time as a medical term. Sure, it is a loanword from English, but I suppose it is nothing unusual in French, too. Jun 20, 2017 at 3:00
  • @Vérace Les deux existes, mais ne signifient pas exactement la même chose.
    – Mistalis
    Jun 20, 2017 at 9:52
  • @Vérace Dans la phrase donnée le contexte est insuffisant pour dire si trauma est bien employé ici (et ce n'est pas l'objet de la question), mais ce qui est sûr c'est que le mot existe en français. Un trauma est une lésion locale produite par une action extérieure. Un traumatisme est un ensemble de manifestations locales ou générales provoquées par une action violente sur l'organisme. Ne pas confondre les deux.
    – None
    Jun 20, 2017 at 14:08
  • 2
    I would avoid potentiellement in peut potentiellement and pourraient potentiellement which look like pleonasms to me.
    – jlliagre
    Jun 20, 2017 at 14:13

1 Answer 1


Nothing calls for conditional here, unless you have an implicit condition in mind or you meant to speak about a specific time in the future when it could happen. If it's a general reminder, present is the firm way to state it. If there is potential for something to happen, in normal circumstances you would rather not say there “could” be potential, would you?

Just for reference, you might be interested in the ngrams and the various occurrences in books.

  • Hi. Interestingly, you can say both in English: "you can/could potentially lose ...". Jun 19, 2017 at 17:45
  • @Alone-zee Both are used in French as well, but present is more frequent.
    – None
    Jun 19, 2017 at 17:51
  • 2
    I don't believe the present is more frequent, I think it depends completely on how much uncertainty you want to introduce. If you want this to be a formal warning and really want people to think about it, use the present. if this is pretty idle speculation about something you don't really expect to happen, use the conditional.
    – user13512
    Jun 19, 2017 at 17:54
  • 1
    It's possible in French too, for example in friendly advice like “Fais attention, tu pourrais potentiellement…”. But non-conditionnal present is more often used in French than it is in English (in this case). Jun 19, 2017 at 17:55
  • 1
    Given the « à tout moment » phrase that follows « potentiellement » in this sentence, I would say the degree of probability is high enough, and the level of uncertainty low enough, that the indicative « peut » is the more natural choice in this specific case.
    – Philippe
    Jun 20, 2017 at 14:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.