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The French subjunctive is a special verb form, called a mood, that is used in dependent clauses to indicate some sort of subjectivity, uncertainty, or unreality in the mind of the speaker. In French, feelings like doubt and desire require the subjunctive, as do expressions of necessity, possibility, and judgment. It can be helpful to consider them in themed groups:
- Preferences, Advice, Needs, Desires, Orders
- Judgments, Emotions, Feelings
- Possibilities, Opinions, Doubts, Suppositions
- Additional Subjunctive Triggers
Note that there are two additional conditions to meet before using the French subjunctive:
1) Que or qui
The expression in the main clause must end with the relative pronoun que or qui. If it ends with the preposition de, you need to use the infinitive.
|Il est important que tu fasses tes devoirs.||It’s important for you to do your homework.|
|Il est important de faire tes devoirs.||It’s important to do your homework.|
2) Two subjects
The subject of the main clause and that of the dependent clause must be different. If they’re the same, just use the infinitive.
|Je veux que tu ailles à la banque.||I want you to go to the bank.|
|Je veux aller à la banque.||I want to go to the bank.|
À noter : There is no future subjunctive in French. Even for subjective situations that are clearly set in the future, the present subjunctive is used.
|Il faut que tu prennes le bus demain.||You’ll have to take the bus tomorrow.|
There are hundreds of verbs, expressions, and conjunctions that call for the subjunctive, so it’s helpful to divide them into themes.
Preferences, Advice, Needs, Desires, Orders (PANDO)
|aimer mieux que||to like better / to prefer that|
|commander que||to order that|
|défendre que||to forbid|
|demander que||to ask (someone to do something)|
|désirer que||to desire that|
|donner l’ordre que||to order that|
|empêcher que*||to prevent (someone from doing something)|
|éviter que*||to avoid|
|exiger que||to demand that|
|il est à souhaiter que||it is to be hoped that|
|il est capital que||it is crucial that|
|il est essentiel que||it is essential that|
|il est impératif que||it is imperative that|
|il est nécessaire que||it is necessary that|
|il est temps que||it is time that|
|il est urgent que||it is urgent that|
|il faut que||it is necessary that|
|interdire que||to forbid that|
|s’opposer que||to oppose that|
|ordonner que||to order that|
|permettre que||to permit that|
|préférer que||to prefer that|
|proposer que||to propose that|
|recommander que||to recommend|
|souhaiter que||to wish that|
|suggérer que||to suggest that|
|tenir à ce que||to insist that|
|vouloir que||to want that|
* These verbs call for the ne explétif.
Judgments, Emotions, Feelings (JEF)
|accepter que||to accept|
|adorer que||to love that|
|aimer que||to like that|
|apprécier que||to appreciate that|
|avoir honte que||to be ashamed that|
|avoir peur que*||to be afraid that|
|craindre que*||to fear that|
|déplorer que||to deplore that|
|détester que||to hate that|
|être content que||to be happy that|
|être désolé que||to be sorry that|
|être étonné que||to be amazed that|
|être heureux que||to be happy that|
|être surpris que||to be surprised that|
|être triste que||to be sad that|
|il est bizarre que||it is odd that|
|il est bon que||it is good that|
|il est convenable que||it is proper/fitting that|
|il est dommage que||it is too bad that|
|il est étonnant que||it is amazing that|
|il est étrange que||it is strange that|
|il est faux que||it is false that|
|il est heureux que||it is fortunate that|
|il est honteux que||it is shameful that|
|il est important que||it is important that|
|il est inutile que||it is useless that|
|il est juste que||it is right/fair that|
|il est naturel que||it is natural that|
|il est normal que||it is normal that|
|il est rare que||it is rare that|
|il est regrettable que||it is regrettable that|
|il est surprenant que||it is surprising that|
|il est utile que||it is useful that|
|il n’est pas exact que||it is not correct that|
|il n’est pas vrai que||it is not true that|
|il vaut mieux que||it is better that|
|redouter que*||to dread that|
|regretter que||to regret that|
|se réjouir que||to be delighted that|
* These verbs call for the ne explétif.
Possibilities, Opinions, Doubts, Suppositions (PODS)
|s’attendre à ce que||to expect|
|chercher … qui*||to look for|
|douter que**||to doubt that|
|il est douteux que**||it is doubtful that|
|il est impossible que||it is impossible that|
|il est improbable que||it is improbable that|
|il est possible que||it is possible that|
|il est peu probable que||it is improbable that|
|il n’est pas certain que||it is not certain that|
|il n’est pas clair que||it is not clear that|
|il n’est pas évident que||it is not obvious that|
|il n’est pas probable que||it is improbable that|
|il n’est pas sûr que||it is not certain that|
|il semble que||it seems that|
|il se peut que||it may be that|
|le fait que||the fact that|
|nier que***||to deny that|
|refuser que||to refuse|
|supposer que||to suppose, hypothesize|
* Whether to use the subjunctive chercher depends on whether you know the person or thing exists – learn more.
** These do not take the subjunctive when they are used negatively.
*** When nier is in the negative or interrogative, it calls for the ne explétif.
Think you’ve got it? Test yourself on the French subjunctive with these fill-in-the-blanks exercises.
Note: You must be logged into your Progress with Lawless French account to take these tests. If you don’t have one, sign up – it’s free!
Additional French Subjunctive Triggers
- Negation and interrogation
- Negative and indefinite pronouns
- Special uses
- Superlatives and limits
- Using the French subjunctive – PwLF super list
- Avoiding the subjunctive
More French Subjunctive
- Introduction to the French subjunctive
- The Subjunctivisor!
- La chanson du subjonctif
French Subjunctive Tenses
French Lesson Plans
- Using the French Subjunctive (Project, 9th-12th grade)
- Synopsis: French Indicative and Subjunctive Forms (Worksheet, 8th-10th grade)
- The Delicious Meal? (Worksheets and writing exercises, 10th grade)
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I’m studying French again after a 42 year hiatus. (My daughter’s potential in-laws are French).
I was really good at French back then, and have been frustrated in class at not being able to remember all I once knew.
I LOVE this page – it’s giving me shortcuts to remembering words and structures I’d forgotten.
I’m a former teacher of languages – and not easily impressed. I think your website is excellent!!! I’m so glad I discovered it.
Merci bien et bonne continuation ! 🙂
Quick question about the use of the subjunctive. You state that “the subject of the main clause and that of the dependent clause must be different”.
What about the French translation of “I don’t think that I can do that”. Would that not be “Je ne pense pas que je PUISSE le faire”?
Good question. No, you wouldn’t use the subjunctive: you’d say Je ne pense pas pouvoir le faire.
Thanks for the reply. I’ve never come across that before – not in any of my grammar books, nor with any of my tutors – simply because I don’t think it’s ever come up before, so that’s great to know!
Love the website, by the way.
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