Subjunctive in French – Part 2

French Subjunctive Mood:

– Subjunctive in French – Part 1
– Subjunctive in French – Part 2
– Past subjunctive in French

Lesson Part 2
1. Sentences with QUE
2. Expressions that require the subjunctive
3. Subjunctive or not?

French Subjunctive Mood – When to use it

In the part 1, we saw that the word subjunctive means “put after”, so to get the subjunctive in French we need something before and it is usually the word “that” or “que” in French, like the espression “it is important that you be…”

the video is here:

1- Sentences with “que”:

A. Short sentences starting with QUE:

God save the Queen: que Dieu sauve la Reine

Let him come here: qu’il vienne ici (you could also translate : laissez-le venir ici)

He must be on time: qu’il soit à l’heure (you could also translate: il doit être à l’heure)

B. Sentences divided by “that”:

It is important that you be on time

In French, to have the subjunctive after ‘that” the first part of the sentence must express: a will, a wish, an obligation or a doubt. In the above example, we have the subjunctive because the fist part of the sentence “it is important that” expresses an obligation, the same thing in French!

a- Will

I want you to go to the supermarket, with the verb “to want” it is a will, but in French we say: I want that you go to the supermarket, so after “I want that” we have the subjunctive.

Je veux que tu ailles au supermarché

b- Wish

I would like that you arrive by 10pm: Je voudrais que tu arrives pour 22 heures (you can see that the present tense of the indicative mood has the same form)

I wish you were younger: Je regrette que tu ne sois pas plus jeune ( we usually translate “I wish” by the expression “je regrette que ” following by a negative form.

c- Obligation

It is important that you be here: c’est important que tu sois ici

You must eat your soup: Il faut que tu manges ta soupe (il faut que is often used in French, il faut que tu fasses: you must do…)

d- Doubt

I don’t think he can do it: je ne pense pas qu’il puisse le faire (you do not think but you are not sure so => subjunctive)

I don’t believe he is available: je ne crois pas qu’il soit libre; however if you say “I believe he is available” and you are sure, you don’t need the subjunctive: “je crois qu’il est libre”

C. Let and May: Imperative

These forms of these two verbs may used the Subjunctive:
Let him in: Laissez-le entrer (imperative) or Qu’il entre (subjunctive)
May the president find a solution: Que le président trouve une solution or Puisse le président trouver une solution.

2. Expressions that require the Subjunctive mood

A. Conjunctions

there are a lot of conjunctions in French following with the subjunctive, here are some of them:

à condition que: on condition that
Pourvu que: provided that
bien que: although
afin que / pour que: in order that
à moins que: unless
en attendant que: while
sans que: without

but, après que, parce que, dès que, alors que… needs the indicative.

B. Who or Which instead of “that”

Some expressions using “who” or “which” may be followed with the subjunctive, they follow the same rule: will, wish, obligation and doubt.

Imagine a car which is ecological: Imagine une voiture qui soit écolo (it is a wish)

I don’t know anyone who can come: je ne connais personne qui puisse venir (expresses a doubt, but if you are sure that you know nobody, you can use the indicative).

C. …ever

Expressions like whoever, whatever, wherever needs the subjunctive mood in French:

Whoever you are: qui que tu sois

Wherever you go: où que tu ailles

D. Negative form with QUE

Some verbs like penser (to think), croire (to believe) require the Subjunctive for their negative form otherwise it is the indicative mood:
Je pense qu’il vient (Indicative because it is sure or almost) or je pense qu’il viendra (future)
Je ne pense pas qu’il vienne (Subjunctive, the doubt is bigger)
Je crois qu’il vient  (je crois qu’il viendra) and je ne crois pas qu’il vienne.

3. Subjunctive or not?

Some expressions are followed with the indicative:
il est clair que, il est certain que, il est sûr que

Verbs like Dire, trouver, savoir, constater are also followed with the Indicative mood, that’s why it is not easy to understand this mood at the beginning:
Je dis qu’il viendra demain, je ne dis pas qu’il viendra demain.

Let’s see this little exercise: Which sentences are correct?
1- Après que je suis arrivé
2- Après que je sois arrivé
3- Avant que je suis arrivé
4- Avant que je sois arrivé
Answer: 1 and 4, we use the subjunctive before an event occurs, so after “après que” we use the indicative mood!

Next Lesson: Past Subjunctive in French

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