Special Uses of the Subjunctive

Usages particuliers du subjonctif

The French subjunctive is most often found in subordinate clauses (e.g., Il faut que tu partes), but it can also be used in main or independent clauses.*  In general, this latter usage tends to be formal.

 À noter : This is an advanced lesson on using of the French subjunctive. Before you continue, make sure that you understand the basics of the subjunctive.

1) Third person imperative: que + subjunctive

The subjunctive can be used after que as a third person imperative, for commands, wishes, concessions, suppositions, and exclamations.

Qu’ils mangent de la brioche !   Let them eat brioche!
Que Dieu vous bénisse.   (May) God bless you.
Qu’il y réussisse cette fois !   Let him succeed this time!
I hope he succeeds this time!
Qu’il repose en paix.   May he rest in peace.
Qu’il soit en retard, il faut l’attendre avant de manger.   He may be late, we have to wait for him before eating.

2) Polite and/or literary imperative: without que

The subjunctive can be used without que for polite and/or literary commands, wishes, etc., but only for a few verbs:

      Usage
être Soit un triangle ABC. Let ABC be a triangle.
Let’s consider the triangle ABC.
science, math
pouvoir Puissiez-vous dire vrai ! Let’s hope you’re right! literary
savoir Je ne sache pas que cela existe. I’m not aware that that exists. formal
Pas autant que je sache. Not that I know of. literary
venir Vienne l’aube, les oiseaux chantent. Come dawn, the birds sing. poetic, literary
vivre Vive la France ! Long live France! third person command
vouloir Veuillez m’excuser. Please excuse me. very polite command

3) Fixed expressions

Ainsi soit-il   So be it
Advienne que pourra   Come what may
autant que je sache   to the best of my knowledge
coûte que coûte   at all costs
Dieu soit loué !   Thank goodness!
Dieu vous protège.   May God protect you.
Grand bien vous fasse !   You’re welcome to it! May it serve you well! (sarcastic)
n’en déplaise à…   with all due respect to…
pas que je sache   not to my knowledge
Plaise à Dieu que …   God grant that …
Qu’à cela ne tienne.   Never mind that, That doesn’t matter.
Sauve qui peut !   Save yourselves (if you can)!

 *Note: For que + subjunctive and many of the fixed expressions, you can see why the subjunctive is needed if you consider that a main clause has been dropped, leaving what used to be a subordinate clause to stand alone.

(Je veux) Que Dieu vous bénisse.

(Nous souhaitons que) Grand bien vous fasse !

 More French subjunctive

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