Le subjonctif du présent / Present Subjunctive

This is a very hard tense because the subjunctive mood is almost non-existant in English. It is used in French to express doubt or emotion. Here are the most common uses:

  • Informal commands, requests, or recommendations. Examples: He wants that she study (He wants her to study), I recommend that we leave, She ordered that he stay.
  • Talking about something that doesn't exist. Example: I am looking for a person who can answer my question.
  • Expressing doubt or denial. Example: I doubt that they come (I doubt they will come).
  • Expressing emotion. Example: I am happy that you accompany us; my friend is disappointed that he can't join us too.
  • Impersonal expressions. Example: It's important that we avoid this area, It's interesting that he speaks Swahili.
  • There are certain conjunctions or phrases that take the subjunctive after them (see below). A verb in the subjunctive will never appear in a clause without a conjunction unless it is a command (which are not covered on this site).
Most verbs get their subjunctive stem from taking the ils form of the verb and dropping the -ent. For regular -er verbs there is no visible difference between this and the present indicative except in the nous and vous forms. Some verbs, however, have irregular stems, and some verbs conjugate irregularly. Below are the endings that you attach to the stem, followed by some verbs fully conjugated in the present subjunctive, and some stems which stay the same all throughout.
  • je: -e
  • tu: -es
  • il/elle/on: -e
  • nous: -ions
  • vous: -iez
  • ils/elles: -ent
Verbs that conjugate irregularly

prendre - to take (and its compounds)
je prenne, tu prennes, il/elle prenne, nous prenions, vous preniez, ils prennent

être - to be
je sois, tu sois, il soit, nous soyons, vous soyez, ils soient

croire - to believe
je croie, tu croies, il croie, nous croyions, vous croyiez, ils croient

voir - to see
je voie, tu voies, il voie, nous voyions, vous voyiez, ils voient

aller - to go
j'ailles, tu ailles, il ailles, nous allions, vous alliez, ils aillent

avoir - to have
j'aie, tu aies, il ait, nous ayons, vous ayez, ils aient

venir - to come (tenir - to hold done same way)
je vienne, tu viennes, il vienne, nous venions, vous veniez, ils viennent

boire - to drink
je boive, tu boives, il boive, nous buvions, vous buviez, ils boivent

vouloir - to want
je veuille, tu veuilles, il veuille, nous voulions, vous vouliez, ils veuillent

Irregular stems
falloir (to be able) --> il faille (only conjugated in this form)
pouvoir (to be able) --> puiss-
savoir (to know) --> sach-
faire (to make) --> fass-

Conjunctions/phrases that take the subjunctive:
  • quoique (although)
  • falloir que (to be necessary that)
  • bien que (even though)
  • quoi que (whatever)
  • qui que (whoever)
  • avant que (before)
  • afin que (in order that)
  • jusqu'à ce que (until)
Some sentences illustrating common uses of the subjunctive

Je veux que tu viennes avec moi.
I want you to come with me. [lit. I want that you come with me.]

Avant que tu ne fasses ça, viens ici.
Before you do that, come here. [lit. translation]

Qui que tu sois...
Whoever you are... [lit. Who that you be]

J'ai besoin que tu achètes ça.
I need you to buy that. [lit. I need that you buy that]

Je cherche une calculatrice qui marche bien.
I'm looking for a calculator that performs well.

Je regrette que nous ne puissions pas vous accompagner.
I am sorry that we cannot come with you.

Elle doute qu'il entende.
She doubts that he hears.

C'est intéressant qu'il parle Swahili.
It's interesting that he speaks Swahili.

7 comments:

  1. Oh man... Thanks. This is really helpful! Especially since I have a french test tomorrow... I should have paid attention in class...

    Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I h8 my french teacher

    ReplyDelete
  3. thank you hope i dont fail

    ReplyDelete
  4. "falloir" is "to have to", not "to be able"

    ReplyDelete
  5. aller is wrong. je and il are aille, not ailles

    ReplyDelete
  6. I don't understand why you used "ne" in "Avant que tu ne fasses ca, viens ici." My boyfriend's first language is french and he said he thinks it might be wrong, but he isn't sure. Could you possibly explain why?

    ReplyDelete

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