Special Uses of the Subjunctive

Usages particuliers du subjonctif

French subjunctive
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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 the French subjunctive. Before you continue, make sure that you understand the basics of the subjunctive.

1) Third person commands: que + subjunctive

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

Par exemple…

Qu’ils mangent de la brioche !   Let them eat brioche!
Que Dieu vous bénisse.   (May) God bless you.

Learn more

2) Polite and/or literary imperative: que + subjunctive

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

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 entende.   May God hear you.
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 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.

(On veut que) Dieu vous entende.

(Nous souhaitons que) Grand bien vous fasse !

 More French subjunctive

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French subjunctive

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