Variable Subjunctive

French subjunctive
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Subjonctif variable

Obviousness, knowledge, certainty, and hope are considered real – at least to the speaker – and therefore do not call for the French subjunctive. Using these verbs and expressions in the negative or interrogative, however, indicates doubt: thus the subjunctive is required.

These are the French verbs and phrases that may or may not be followed by the subjunctive, depending on how they’re used:

c’est que   it’s that/because
connaître (quelqu’un) qui   to know (someone) that
croire que   to believe that
dire que   to say that
espérer que   to hope that
être certain que   to be certain that
être sûr que   to be sure that
il est certain que   it is certain that
il est clair que   it is clear/obvious that
il est évident que   it is obvious that
il est probable que   it is probable that
il est exact que   it is correct/true that
il est sûr que   it is certain that
il est vrai que   it is true that
il me (te, lui…) semble que   it seems to me (you, him…) that
il paraît que   it appears that
penser que   to think that
savoir que   to know that
trouver que   to find/think that
vouloir dire que   to mean that

Par exemple…

Je pense qu’il est sympa.   I think he’s nice.
Je ne pense pas qu’il soit sympa.   I don’t think he’s nice.
Penses-tu qu’il soit sympa ?   Do you think he’s nice?
Il est clair que Luc le sait.   It’s clear that Luc knows.
Il n’est pas clair que Luc le sache.   It’s not clear whether Luc knows.
Est-il clair que Luc le sache ?   Is it clear that Luc knows?

 In contrast, douter (to doubt), il est douteux (it’s doubtful), and nier (to deny) take the subjunctive when they are affirmative, but not when they are negative.

Je doute qu’il vienne.   I doubt he’ll come.
Je ne doute pas qu’il ne* vient.   I don’t doubt that he’ll come.

 * This is the ne explétif

 More French subjunctive

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French subjunctive

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