Does "Peut-être que" Require the Subjunctive?

One of the Deceptive Indicative Phrases in French

One of the biggest questions French students have is whether certain words and phrases require the subjunctive. It can lead to a lot of confusion, particularly when an adverb meaning "perhaps" is involved as it is in peut-être que. So, is this subjunctive or indicative?

Does "Peut-être que" Need the Subjunctive?

No, peut-être que does not take the subjunctive. This is actually a very tricky subjunctive or indicative question.

We are typically told to hold the statement up against reality: is there any uncertainty to it? If there is, then it would need to take the subjunctive. Since the adverb peut-être que means "maybe" or "perhaps. Wouldn't that then make it uncertain?

In theory, yes, but peut-être que is a form of pouvoir, which is "to be able to." Also, the verb être means "to be." In combination, there is no question expressed within the phrase.

To put this into context, it's best to do a comparison. This statement is indicative:

  • Peut-être que tu n'as pas besoin de cela.
  • Maybe you don't need that.

You can rephrase this statement in the form of a question that does take the subjunctive:

  • Est-il possible que vous n'en ayez pas besoin?
  • Is it possible that you don't need that?

This is because the phrase il est possible que raises a possibility or a chance. That in itself requires the subjunctive because it questions the certainty.