You can make yourself understood without using subjunctive. This will, however, show that you are not fluent in French.
In this article we will focus on common expressions and verbs that use the subjunctive.
Concrete examples will help you to understand the different areas of application.
Before we begin, let us define the two important rules:
- Subjunctive requires a “que” or a “qui”
- Two subjects, for instance “you” and “me”
Look at this phrase:
- Il est important que tu sois prêt – It is important that you are ready.
Here we have “que” and two people. The subjunctive form is almost always placed after the “que.” and the pronoun.
Please look at these phrases that are in the subjunctive form:
- Elle veut que tu viennes – She wants you to come.
- Il faut que tu ailles – You need to leave.
Most of the time, you could use verbs in the present tense and still get your point across. For instance:
- Il veut que tu viennes – Il veut que tu viens (present tense)
It is pronounced slightly differently, but the meaning of the phrase would not change.
You might be wondering why I want to stress this aspect?
I found that students are often confused by the subjunctive form. Many students simply struggle to make sense of it.
However, now you know that the people around you will most likely understand you even if you are using regular verbs.
Let us move on the the areas of application. You will find more information on the conjugation later in this article.
Common areas of application
Falloir often takes the subjunctive form. Let us look at two examples:
- Il faut que vous aillez maintenant – You need to leave right now.
- Il faut que vous étudiiez avant l’examen – You need to study before the exam.
These two examples meet the requirement for the subjunctive form. That is:
- Two subjects/persons
- Including “que”.
|Attention! We can also use “Falloir” without the “que”. In this case we should use the verb in its infinitive form. For instance:
Il faut étudier – You/we need to study
Il faut apprendre la grammare française – You/we need to learn French grammar.
Vouloir, which means “to want,” is often used in relation to the subjunctive form. However, the verb also often stays in the present tense. How can we make sense of this?
Take a look at these four examples:
- Je veux trouver le sens de la vie (present tense) – I want to find the meaning of life.
- Nous voulons partir maintenant (present tense)– We want to leave right now.
- Je veux que tu sois heureux – I want you to be happy.
- Il veut que j’aie une belle vie – He wants me to have a good life.
What is our biggest takeaway from this? “Vouloir” is a trigger for the subjunctive form. We just need to ensure that two criterions are met:
- Two subjects/persons
- “Qui” or “que”
“Vouloir” is a common verb that is used daily in the French language. Please remember this trigger that requires the subjunctive form .
“Penser,” which means “to think,” can also be a trigger, much in the same way as “vouloir.” However, it only takes the subjunctive tense in the negative form. For instance:
- Je ne pense pas que tu sois prêt – I do not think you are ready.
- On ne pense pas que la solution soit correcte – We do not think that the solution is correct.
“Penser” is probably the favorite verb among beginners. This verb expresses your ideas and it is easy to use.
Now you know that the negative form is a trigger.
“Pour que” means “so that.” This preposition can help you to develop your phrases. It is also followed by the subjunctive form, which requires extra attention.
- Je vais tout donner pour que vous réussissiez – I will give my all for you to succeed.
- Vous devriez l’aider pour qu’il puisse devenir indépendant – You should help him so that he can become independent.
Il est important que
“Il est important que” means “it is important that”.
Let’s look at a couple of examples:
- Il est important que tu étudies – It is important that you study
- Il est important que vous soyez seriéux – It is important that you are serious.
Do you need more practice?
I have written a PDF with exercises,
and one with only online exercises 🙂
In this article, we have focused on a few expressions that are frequently used in daily conversations.
Here is a long list of additional expressions that take the subjunctive form.
- Avoir peur que- To be afraid of
- Douter que- To doubt
- Pour que- So that
- Sans que- Without that
- Jusqu´à ce que- Until
- Bien que- Even if
- Quoi que- Regardless
- Exiger que- To demand
Let us continue with some of the “il est”-expressions.
- Il est impossible que- It is impossible that
- Il est possible que- It is possible that
In the negative form:
- Il n’est pas certain que- It is not certain that
- Il n’est pas évident que- It is not obvious that
One in the negative form and one in the affirmative form:
- Il n’est pas sûr que- It is not sure that
- Il est urgent que- It is urgent that
A majority of articles that I have read on this subject put emphasis on when you should use the subjunctive form. That is, when you want to express doubt, an order, a desire or an emotion. This is important, but it tends to make students confused.
I found that describing different expressions in relation to the subjunctive form is more useful, as it will give you the opportunity to start using this tense in your own language.
The key to the conjugation is to look at regular verbs in the present tense. Sound difficult?
I have prepared a step-by-step guide for you .
ER-verbs, verbs ending in ER, for instance (regarder)
Let us look at the third person plural in the present tense (ils regardent)
Let us remove ”ent” from the end, which gives us “regard“.
Now we can add the endings for the subjunctive form.
Which will give us:
|que je regarde|
|que tu regardes|
|que nous regardions|
|que vous regardiez|
|que vous regardent|
Verbs ending in “IR”, for instance “Choisir”
Let us go through the same process with “Choisir” – “to choose”
We begin by looking at the verb in the present tense.
We pick the third personal plural form (ils choisissent).
Remove “ent” from the end, which will give us “choisissent“
Now we can add the endings for the subjunctive form (same as before).
|que je choisisse|
|que tu choisisses|
|que nous choisissions|
|que vous choisissiez|
This process is quite easy to remember.
However, there are about 10 irregular verbs. This means that we need to remember them by heart.
It is worth learning them by heart as they are frequently used in daily conversations.
Avoir – to have
|tu as||que tu aies|
|il a||qu’il ait|
|nous avons||que nous ayons|
|vous avez||que vous ayez|
|ils ont||quil’s aient|
Être – to be
|je suis||que je sois|
|tu es||que tu sois|
|il est||qu’il soit|
|nous sommes||que nous soyons|
|vous êtes||que vous soyez|
|ils sont||quil’s soient|
Pouvoir – Can, be able to
|je peux||que je puisse|
|tu peux||que tu puisses|
|il peut||qu’il puisse|
|nous pouvons||que nous puissions|
|vous pouvez||que vous puissiez|
|ils peuvent||quil’s puissent|
Aller – to go
|je vais||que j’aille|
|tu vas||que tu ailles|
|il va||qu’il aille|
|nous allons||que nous allions|
|vous allez||que vous alliez|
|ils vont||quil’s aillent|