French Subjunctive - Le Subjonctif - Rules And Examples

French Subjunctive

The subjunctive mood is used to express actions or ideas which are subjective or otherwise uncertain: will/wanting, emotion, doubt, possibility, necessity, judgment...

It is nearly always found in dependent clauses introduced by que or qui, and the subjects of the dependent and main clauses are usually different.

  • Je veux que tu le fasses.
    I want you to do it.

     
  • Il faut que nous partions.
    it is necessary that we leave.


The following pages of this lesson include lists of verbs, expressions, and conjunctions which require the subjunctive in French. They are divided into categories to help you remember them.

The subjunctive can seem overwhelming, but the thing to remember is the subjunctive = subjectivity, unreality. That should help you figure it out at least 90% of the time.

On the last page of this article (page 8), you'll find many more links to subjunctive related articles on About.com, including verb conjugations in the subjunctive mood.

NOTE: There is no future subjunctive. Even if the action is to happen in the future, the present subjunctive is used. However, there is a past subjunctive.

French subjunctive: Expressions of will - orders, advice, desires

Verbs and expressions which express someone's will, an order, a need, a piece of advice, or a desire require the subjunctive.

aimer mieux que:   to like better / to prefer that

commander que:   to order that

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 essentiel que:   it is essential that

il est important que:   it is important that

il est naturel que:   it is natural that

il est nécessaire que:  it is necessary that

il est normal que:   it is normal that

il est temps que:   it is time that

il est urgent que:   it is urgent that

il faut que:   it is necessary that

il vaut mieux que:   it is better 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 are followed by the ne explétif:

   Évitez qu'il ne parte.
   Prevent him from leaving.

 

French subjunctive: Emotions and feelings

Verbs and expressions of emotion or feeling - fear, happiness, anger, regret, surprise, or any other sentiments - require the subjunctive.

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 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 heureux que:   it is fortunate that

il est honteux que:   it is shameful that

il est inutile que:   it is useless 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

redouter que*:  to dread that

regretter que:   to regret that

se réjouir que:   to be delighted that

*These verbs are followed by the ne explétif:

   Je crains qu'il ne parte.
   I'm afraid he'll leave.

French subjunctive: Opinion, possibility, doubt

Verbs and expressions of doubt, possibility, supposition, and opinion

accepter que:   to accept

s'attendre à ce que:   to expect

chercher ... qui*:   to look for

détester que:   to hate

douter que**:   to doubt that

il est convenable que:   it is proper/fitting that

il est douteux que**:   it is doubtful that

il est faux que:   it is false that

il est impossible que:   it is impossible that

il est improbable que:   it is improbable that

il est juste que:   it is right/fair 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 exact que:   it is not correct that

il n'est pas probable que:   it is improbable that

il n'est pas sûr que:   it is not certain that

il n'est pas vrai que:   it is not true 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

*When you are looking for someone who may not exist, that indicates doubt and therefore requires the subjunctive:

   Je cherche un homme qui sache la vérité.
   I'm looking for a man who knows the truth.

**These do not take the subjunctive when they are used negatively:

   Je doute qu'il vienne, Je ne doute pas qu'il vient.
   I doubt he's coming, I don't doubt he's coming.

***When nier is in the negative, it's followed by the ne explétif:

   Il n'a pas nié qu'elle ne soit partie.
   He didn't deny that she left.

French subjunctive: Affirmative vs negative statements

The following verbs and expressions do not take the subjunctive when they are used in the affirmative, because they express facts which are considered certain - at least in the speaker's mind.

When negative or interrogatory, they require the subjunctive:

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

Penses-tu qu'il soit sympa ? Oui, je pense qu'il est sympa, Non, je ne pense pas qu'il soit sympa.
Do you think he's nice? Yes, I think he's nice. No, I don't think he's nice.
 

French subjunctive with conjunctions

A number of French conjunctive phrases require the subjunctive:

à condition que:   provided that

à moins que*:   unless

à supposer que:   assuming that

afin que:   so that

avant que*:   before

bien que:   although

de crainte que*:   for fear that

de façon que:   so that, in order that, in such a way that

de manière que:   so that

de peur que*:   for fear that

de sorte que:   so that

en admettant que:   assuming that

en attendant que:   while, until

encore que:   even though

jusqu'à ce que:   until

pour que:   so that

pourvu que:   provided that

quoique:   even though

quoi que:   whatever, no matter what

sans que*:   without

*These conjunctions are followed by the ne explétif:

   Mangeons avant que nous ne partions.
   Let's eat before we leave.

On the other hand, the following conjunctions do not take the subjunctive, because they express facts which are considered certain:

ainsi que:   just as, so as

alors que:   while, whereas

après que**:   after, when

aussitôt que**:   as soon as

car   since, because

en même temps que:   at the same time that

depuis que:   since

dès que**:   as soon as, immediately

lorsque**: when

parce que:   because

pendant que:   while

plutôt que:   instead of, rather than

puisque:   since, as

quand**: when

tandis que:   while, whereas

une fois que**:   once

**These conjunctions are followed by the future tense in French, even though in English we use the present tense.

   Mangeons quand il arrivera.
   Let's eat when he arrives.

 

French Subjunctive with Superlatives

After main clauses which contain adjectives like principal, seul, unique, premier, dernier, or any superlative, the subjunctive is optional - it depends on how concrete the speaker feels about what is being said.

   Hélène est la seule personne qui puisse nous aider.
   Hélène is the only person who can help us.
   (Hélène may be the only person I think can help us, but there may be others.)

   Hélène est la seule personne que je vois.
   Hélène is the only person I see.
   (No subjunctive, because I know this for a fact - I only see Hélène.)

   C'est le meilleur livre que j'aie pu trouver.
   That's the best book I could find.
   (But it's not necessarily the best that exists.)

   C'est le meilleur livre que j'ai écrit.
   That's the best book I've written.
   (I wrote three, and I know for a fact that this is the best one.)
 

French subjunctive with negative and indefinite pronouns

In a subordinate clause with the negative pronouns ne ... personne or ne ... rien, or the indefinite pronouns quelqu'un or quelque chose.

   Je ne connais personne qui veuille m'aider.
   I don't know anyone who wants to help me.

   Il n'y a rien que nous puissions faire.
   There's nothing that we can do.

   Y a-t-il quelqu'un qui puisse m'aider ?
   Is there someone who can help me?

   J'aimerais inventer quelque chose qui fasse une différence.
   I'd like to invent something that will make a difference.

Voilà—there are a lot of rules about when to use the French Subjunctive!

Updated by Camille Chevalier Karfis