French Subjunctive - Le Subjonctif - Rules And Examples

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Introducing the French Subjunctive

French Subjunctive

Updated by Camille Chevalier Karfis

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.

If you'd like to really understand the French Subjunctive and why the French use it, I suggest you check out Camille Chevalier-Karfis lesson's Understanding French Subjunctive on French Today.

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, 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.

Quiz: Subjunctive or Indicative?

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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.

 Subjunctive quiz

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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.

Subjunctive quiz

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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.

Subjunctive quiz

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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.

Does ___ need the subjunctive? Find out with the Subjunctivator! | Subjunctive quiz

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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.

Subjunctive quiz

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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.)

Subjunctive quiz

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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 - these are a lot of rules about when to use the French Subjunctive. If you'd like to understand the French Subjunctive and why we use it, I suggest you check out Camille Chevalier-Karfis lesson's Understanding French Subjunctive.

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Here are more links about the French Subjunctive on this site

Subjunctive  |  Verb mood  |  Verb tense

Subjunctive Conjugations
Regular verbs  |  Irregular verbs

Subjunctive Usage
Using the subjunctive
Special uses of the subjunctive
Avoiding the subjunctive

Subjunctive Tenses
Present subjunctive
Past subjunctive
Imperfect subjunctive
Pluperfect subjunctive
Future subjunctive
Verb timeline

Subjunctive Tests
Regular verb conjugations
Irregular verb conjugations
Subjunctive or indicative?
Translation exercise
Test on the past subjunctive