French subjunctive
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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:

  1. Preferences, Advice, Needs, Desires, Orders
  2. Judgments, Emotions, Feelings
  3. Possibilities, Opinions, Doubts, Suppositions
  4. 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.
Il est important de fasses tes devoirs.    

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.
Je veux que j’aille à la banque.    

 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.

French subjunctive

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.

French subjunctive

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.

French subjunctive

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.

 Subjunctive Quizzes

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

 More French Subjunctive



French Subjunctive Tenses

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French subjunctive

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5 Responses

  1. Neta Labi 5 August 2018 / 0:55

    Hi Laura. 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.

    • lkl 6 August 2018 / 10:02

      Bonjour Neta,

      Merci bien et bonne continuation ! 🙂

  2. Martin Lake 29 May 2018 / 11:13

    Hi Laura

    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”?



    • lkl 29 May 2018 / 12:47

      Salut Martin,

      Good question. No, you wouldn’t use the subjunctive: you’d say Je ne pense pas pouvoir le faire.

      • Martin Lake 31 May 2018 / 17:00

        Salut Laura

        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.