Superlative Subjunctive

Subjonctif avec superlatifs

French superlative subjunctive
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Whether to use the French subjunctive is not just a matter of memorizing lists of verbs and expressions (although that helps); with limits and superlatives, the subjunctive is optional:

  1. If you’re making an assumption or being hyperbolic, you need the subjunctive.
  2. If you believe that you’re talking about reality, you should stick with the indicative.

Limiting adjectives

Limiting adjectives require the subjunctive when the speaker doesn’t know whether what s/he is saying is actually true.

  • dernier – last
  • premier – first
  • principal – main, primary
  • seul – only
  • unique – only

 En comparaison…

C’est le dernier message qu’il ait écrit.   That’s the last message he wrote.
(That I know of.)
C’est le dernier message que j’ai reçu.   That’s the last message I received.
(I just checked, there are no more.)
Thomas pourrait être le seul étudiant qui réussisse à l’examen.   Thomas might be the only student who passes the test.
(It’s a possibility.)
Thomas est le seul étudiant qui a réussi à l’examen.   Thomas is the only student who passed the test.
(Fact: The professor told us only Thomas passed.)

 After la première fois and la dernière fois, the indicative is required.


Superlative adverbs are subject to a similar rule: when the speaker knows something for a fact, the indicative is used. When making an assumption or being hyperbolic, the subjunctive is required.

 En comparaison…

Azay-le-Rideau doit être le plus grand château que nous ayons visité.   Azay-le-Rideau must be the biggest château we visited.
(Assumption. I’m not sure this is true, because we visited more than 20.)
Azay-le-Rideau est le plus grand château que nous avons visité.   Azay-le-Rideau is the biggest château we visited.
(Fact. We only visited three, and this was definitely the biggest.)
C’est le meilleur restaurant qui puisse exister !
  This is the best restaurant that could possibly exist!
C’est le meilleur restaurant que je connais.   This is the best restaurant that I know.
(Fact: I know 10 restaurants, and for me, this is the best of them.)

  More French subjunctive

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French superlative subjunctive

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