Subjunctive Mood in French

French grammar is a complex and nuanced aspect of the language that often perplexes learners. One particularly challenging aspect is the subjunctive mood. This grammatical mood is used in various situations to express doubt, desire, emotion, necessity, or hypothetical scenarios. In this article, we will look into the intricacies of the subjunctive mood in French without using the words listed above.


How is the Subjunctive Mood Used in French?

Expressing Uncertainty: The subjunctive mood is commonly employed when expressing doubt or uncertainty. For instance, when discussing something uncertain or hypothetical, such as wishes, hopes, or doubts, the subjunctive is used. It signifies that the action is not a certainty but rather a possibility or desire.

For example:

  • Il faut que tu viennes. (You must come.) Here, “tu viennes” is in the subjunctive mood because it expresses necessity and is not a definite fact.


Verbs of Influence: Certain verbs in French, like “demander” (to ask), “souhaiter” (to wish), and “recommander” (to recommend), trigger the use of the subjunctive mood. These verbs express the speaker’s influence or desire regarding another person’s actions.

For example:

  • Je recommande que tu fasses tes devoirs. (I recommend that you do your homework.) In this sentence, “tu fasses” is in the subjunctive mood because it follows the verb “recommande”, which expresses the speaker’s recommendation.


Expressing Emotions: The subjunctive mood is also used when expressing emotions or feelings. Verbs like être content que” (to be happy that) or avoir peur que” (to be afraid that) trigger the subjunctive because they convey the speaker’s emotional state or reaction.

For example:

  • Il est triste que tu ne viennes pas. (He is sad that you are not coming.) Here, “tu ne viennes pas” is in the subjunctive mood as it follows the verb “est triste”, expressing the emotion of sadness.


Impersonal Expressions: Certain impersonal expressions, like “il est nécessaire que” (it is necessary that) or “il est important que” (it is important that), also require the use of the subjunctive mood. These expressions emphasize the importance or necessity of an action or event.

For example:

  • Il est essentiel que nous soyons prêts. (It is essential that we be ready.) In this sentence, “nous soyons” is in the subjunctive mood as it follows the impersonal expression “il est essentiel”.


Expressing Doubt or Hypothetical Situations: The subjunctive mood is often used to convey doubt or hypothetical situations. This can be seen in sentences like “Si j’étais riche” (If I were rich), where the use of the subjunctive “étais” indicates a hypothetical scenario.


More Examples of Usage

Here is a list of examples demonstrating the use of the subjunctive mood in various contexts in French:


Expressing Necessity

  • Il faut que je parte immédiatement. (I must leave immediately.)
  • Il est nécessaire que vous soyez présent demain. (It is necessary for you to be present tomorrow.)


Making Recommendations

  • Je suggère que tu lises ce livre. (I suggest that you read this book.)
  • Elle recommande que nous mangions au restaurant. (She recommends that we eat at the restaurant.)


Expressing Doubt or Uncertainty

  • Je doute qu’il réussisse l’examen. (I doubt that he will pass the exam.)
  • Il est possible que nous ayons une réunion demain. (It is possible that we have a meeting tomorrow.)


Describing Emotions

  • Il est ravi que tu sois venu. (He is delighted that you came.)
  • Elle est triste que tu ne la comprennes pas. (She is sad that you don’t understand her.)


Using Impersonal Expressions

  • Il est important que nous écoutions les conseils. (It is important that we listen to the advice.)
  • Il est essentiel que vous fassiez attention. (It is essential that you pay attention.)


Expressing Wishes and Desires

  • J’aimerais que tu m’accompagnes. (I would like you to accompany me.)
  • Elle veut que son frère réussisse. (She wants her brother to succeed.)


Talking about Hypothetical Situations

  • Si j’avais de l’argent, je voyagerais plus. (If I had money, I would travel more.)
  • S’il était libre, il viendrait à la fête. (If he were free, he would come to the party.)


Expressing Indirect Commands

  • Le professeur a demandé que vous finissiez vos devoirs. (The teacher asked that you finish your homework.)
  • Ma mère préfère que je ne sorte pas tard. (My mother prefers that I don’t go out late.)


Using Negative Expressions

  • Il est improbable que cela arrive. (It is unlikely that this will happen.)
  • Je crains qu’elle ne soit malade. (I fear that she is sick.)


These examples illustrate the versatility of the subjunctive mood in French, as it is used to convey a wide range of emotions, uncertainties, and hypothetical situations in the language.