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, 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

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Team, ThoughtCo. "French Subjunctive - Le Subjonctif - Rules And Examples." ThoughtCo, Dec. 6, 2021, Team, ThoughtCo. (2021, December 6). French Subjunctive - Le Subjonctif - Rules And Examples. Retrieved from Team, ThoughtCo. "French Subjunctive - Le Subjonctif - Rules And Examples." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 5, 2023).