Pluperfect Subjunctive

French pluperfect subjunctive
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Plus-que-parfait du subjonctif

The rarest French verb form is the pluperfect subjunctive (aka past perfect subjunctive). It’s a literary tense, meaning that it’s reserved for formal, written French – mainly literature, but also history and journalism.

The pluperfect subjunctive is equivalent to the past subjunctive used in spoken French, shown here (in parentheses).

Par exemple…

Je craignais qu’il fût parti.
(Je craignais qu’il soit parti.)
  I feared he had left.
Elle mentait quoique j’eusse découvert son secret.
(Elle mentait quoique j’aie découvert son secret.)
  She was lying even though I’d discovered her secret.

Because it’s literary, you don’t need to be able to conjugate the pluperfect subjunctive, but you should learn to recognize it, especially if you read classic French literature and poetry.

Pluperfect subjunctive conjugations

The pluperfect subjunctive is a compound verb form, which means its conjugation has two components:

  verb   conjugation
1. auxiliary (avoir or être)   imperfect subjunctive
2. main verb   past participle

Par exemple…

avoir verb   être verb   pronominal verb
donner (to give)   sortir (to go out)   s’habiller (to get dressed)
j’eusse donné   je fusse sorti(e)   je me fusse habillé(e)
tu eusses donné   tu fusses sorti(e)   tu te fusses habillé(e)
il eût donné   il fût sorti   il se fût habillé
elle eût donné   elle fût sortie   elle se fût habillée
nous eussions donné   nous fussions sorti(e)s   nous nous fussions habillé(e)s
vous eussiez donné   vous fussiez sorti(e)(s)   vous vous fussiez habillé(e)(s)
ils eussent donné   ils fussent sortis   ils se fussent habillés
elles eussent donné   elles fussent sorties   elles se fussent habillées

 The pluperfect subjunctive is identical to the second form of the conditional perfect.

  Past participle agreement

As in all compound conjugations, the past participle in the pluperfect subjunctive may need to agree in gender and number with the word it modifies – learn more.

 Related lessons

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