Subjunctive

French subjunctive
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Subjonctif

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

Conjugations

Usage

French Subjunctive Tenses

French lesson plans French Lesson Plans

Learn Spanish En español

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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”?

    Thanks

    Martin

    • 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.

        Martin