French Subjunctive

French Subjunctive

 

French Subjunctive

The present French subjunctive refers to actions in the present or future.
Use the subjunctive when the sentence contains a dependent and a main clause.
The dependent and main clauses are connected by the word QUE.
One of the clauses will demonstrate a WEIRDO condition.
If what follows QUE is subjective in nature you must use the subjunctive.

French subjunctive lesson guidelines and tips

  • Watch my video lesson on the French subjunctive below.
  • Do some exercises with me at the end of the video lesson (they’re written at the bottom of post).
  • The subjunctive is rumored as the most difficult thing in French, but it’s not true.
  • Watch the video lesson and follow along reading the text below the video.
  • I will not teach every exception in this lesson.  Let’s keep it simple for now.
  • When and why do we use the subjunctive in French?
  • How do you form the subjunctive?
  • Examples using the subjunctive in meaningful context.
  • Practice the French subjunctive with Quizlet study sets (see below).

You may be interested in the following lesson: French Subjunctive or Indicative?

French Subjunctive

  • The present French subjunctive refers to actions in the present or future.
  • Use the subjunctive when the sentence contains a dependent and a main clause.
  • The dependent and main clauses are connected by the word QUE.
  • One of the clauses will demonstrate a WEIRDO condition.
  • If what follows QUE is subjective in nature you must use the subjunctive.

WEIRDO VERBS

W Wishing / wanting
E Emotion
I Impersonal expressions
R Request / require / recommend
D Doubt / demand / deny
O Opinions

What do sentences with a main and dependent clause connected by QUE look like?  Here are some examples:

Wishing / Wanting

Je voudrais que tu finisses tes devoirs.
Je voudrais means I would like, so it demonstrates wanting.
The Je voudrais and the tu finisses tes devoirs are connected by QUE.
Just because I want THAT you finish your homework doesn’t mean you’re actually going to do it.

Emotion

Je suis triste qu’elle ne vienne pas.
Je suis triste means I am sad, so it demonstrates an emotion.
The Je suis triste and the elle ne vienne pas are connected by QUE.
I am sad THAT she’s not coming.
So why use the subjunctive here?  There’s not really a doubt associated with she’s not coming,  but anytime you’re dealing with emotion you do have to use the subjunctive.

Impersonal expressions

Il est important que nous répondions à toutes les questions.
Il est important means It is important, so that’s an impersonal expression.
The Il est important and the nous répondions à toutes les questions are connected by QUE.
It is important THAT we respond to all of the questions, but just because it’s important doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to happen.  Right?

Request / Require / Recommend

Je suggère que vous arriviez un peu en avance.
Je suggère means I suggest, so that’s a recommendation.
Je suggère and the vous arriviez un peu en avance are joined by QUE.
Just because I suggest THAT you arrive a little early doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.

Demand / doubt / deny

Il faut que je mette la table.
Il faut means It is necessary, so that’s a demand.
You can easily use Il faut followed by an infinitive and avoid the subjunctive altogether, but many times you’ll want to say Il faut que followed by another clause that begins with a subject.
In this example the Il faut and the je mette la table are joined by QUE.
Just because It is necessary THAT I set the table doesn’t mean I’ll do it.

Opinions

Je ne crois pas que ce soit une bonne idée.
Je ne crois pas means I don’t believe, so that demonstrates an Opinion.
The Je ne crois pas and the ce soit une bonne idée  are connected by QUE.
Just because I don’t believe THAT it is a good idea doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not.

 

How to Form the Present French Subjunctive

Before doing some exercises together I will show you how to form the subjunctive. There are just a few irregular verbs to learn.  As you may have guessed, the irregular verbs are the ones we use all the time.

How to form the stem / radical

  • The stem is what you’ll add the subjunctive endings to.
  • Take the -ENT off of the 3rd person plural form of the present tense verb
Il faut It is necessary
que that
It is necessary THAT we write a letter. Il faut que nous écrivions une lettre.
That we write a letter This part of the sentence needs the subjunctive.  Why?  Remember, just because it’s necessary doesn’t mean we’re going to do it.

The verb «ÉCRIRE»:  Present subjunctive

How do you form the stem / radical? 3rd person plural (indicative):

Ils écrivent

Take the -ENT off of the 3rd person plural form of the verb.
Écriv-  This is your stem
Now add the subjunctive endings.
What are the subjunctive endings? This is the present subjunctive of the verb écrire.  The endings are in bold print:
que j’écrive
que tu écrives
qu’il écrive / qu’elle écrive / qu’on écrive
que nous écrivions
que vous écriviez
qu’ils écrivent
qu’elles écrivent

Stem-Changing Verbs in the French Subjunctive

  • Verbs that are stem changing in the present indicative are the same in the subjunctive.
  • Keep the same stem in the je, tu, il / elle / on, and ils / elles forms.
  • Only the nous and vous forms that will be different, and the same is true in the regular present tense.
  • We will look at only 4 stem changing verbs, but know that the same rule applies to other verbs in the same category.

Boire

Form the stem the regular way:  ils boivent, take off the -ent, and it becomes boiv- Only nous and vous will have a different stem.
que je boive que nous buvions
que tu boives que vous buviez
qu’il boive / qu’elle boive / qu’on boive qu’ils boivent / qu’elles boivent

Envoyer

Form the stem the regular way:  Nous and vous have an irregular stem; take the -ent off of the 3rd person plural form and you have the stem envoie-
que j’envoie que nous envoyions
que tu envoies que vous envoyiez
qu’il envoie / qu’elle envoie / qu’on envoie qu’ils envoient / qu’elles envoient

Prendre

Nous and vous have an irregular stem; take the -ent off of the 3rd person plural form and you have the stem prenn-
que je prenne que nous prenions
que tu prennes que vous preniez
qu’il prenne / qu’elle prenne / qu’on prenne qu’ils prennent / qu’elles prennent

Venir

Nous and vous have an irregular stem; take the -ent off of the 3rd person plural form and you have the stem vienn-
que je vienne que nous venions
que tu viennes que vous veniez
qu’il vienne / qu’elle vienne / qu’on vienne qu’ils viennent / qu’elles viennent

Verbs with irregular stems (and regular endings)

Verbs with one stem  

faire (fass-)  pouvoir  (puiss-)  savoir (sach-)
Que je fasse Que je puisse Que je sache
Que tu fasses Que tu puisses Que tu saches
Qu’il fasse Qu’il puisse Qu’on sache
Que nous fassions Que nous puissions Que nous sachions
Que vous fassiez Que vous puissiez Que vous sachiez
Qu’ils fassent Qu’ils puissent Qu’ils sachent

Verbs with two stems

Aller (aill- / all-)         Vouloir (veuill- / voul-)
Que j’aille Que nous allions Que je veuille Que nous voulions
Que tu ailles Que vous alliez Que tu veuilles Que vous vouliez
Qu’il aille Qu’ils aillent Qu’il veuille Qu’ils veuillent

Verbs with irregular stems and irregular endings

avoir être
Que j’aie Que nous ayons Que je sois Que nous soyons
Que tu aies Que vous ayez Que tu sois Que vous soyez
Qu’il ait Qu’ils aient Qu’il soit Qu’ils soient

Practice what you’ve learned in this French subjunctive lesson on Quizlet, then we can do some exercises together.





Exercises to practice the French subjunctive

  • Watch the video tutorial above and I’ll walk you through the following exercises, offering explanations when things get tricky.
  • See the written question here, and I’ll tell you the answer in the video.  
  • In the first exercise put all verbs in the present subjunctive.
  • In the second exercise you will need to decide between the subjunctive and the indicative.

Exercise 1

1 Il faut que tu _____ (faire) tes devoirs. fasses
2 Je veux qu’il _____ (partir) ce soir. parte
3 Je regrette que vous _____ (être) en retard. soyez
4 Elle est très heureuse que nous _____ (prendre) le train. prenions
5 Il faut que vous _____ (dire) la vérité. disiez
6 Je ne pense pas qu’il _____ (avoir) raison. ait
7 Je voudrais que tu _____ (apprendre) le russe. apprennes
8 Vous ne croyez pas qu’il ____ (vouloir) nous voir? veuille
9 Je ne crois pas qu’ils se _____ (connaître). connaissent
10 Il faut que vous _____ (pouvoir) le comprendre. puissiez

Exercise 2

1 Je regrette que tu ne ____ pas venir avec nous à la campagne ce week-end.

a.  peux        b.  pouvais     c.  puisses   d.  pourras

puisses
2 Il est sûr que tu ____ le français plus vite en pratiquant tous les jours.

a.  apprendras   b.  apprennes    c.  appris   d.  apprenais

apprendras
3 Il faut que vous ____ plus d’exercice physique.

a.  fassiez     b.  faites    c.  ferez    d.  faisiez

fassiez
4 Nous sommes heureux que vous _____ à notre mariage.

a.  veniez     b.  viendrez      c.  viendriez     d.  venez

veniez
5 Il n’est pas certain que ce projet _____ une excellente opportunité pour nous.

a.  était     b.  sera     c.  est     d.  soit

soit
6 Je veux que mon fils _____ plus soin de ses affaires.

a.  prenne     b.  prend     c.  prendra     d.  prenait

prenne
7 Le professeur exige que son élève ____ à l’examen.

a.  réussit    b.  réussisse    c.  réussira    

d.  réussissait

réussisse
8 Il ne me semble pas que tu ____ ta leçon par coeur.  Tu dois encore réviser.

a.  savais    b.  sais    c.  saches   d.  sauras

saches
9 Elle espère que tu _____ plus performant si tu acceptes de suivre cette formation.

a.  sois    b.  étais    c.  seras    d.  as été

seras
10 Je ne pense pas qu’il ____ tort.

a.  avait     b.  a     c.  ait    d.  aura

ait

Ways to practice the subjunctive

French Subjunctive Activity: Giving Advice

French Present Subjunctive Dice Game

Present French Subjunctive Task Cards

French Past Subjunctive Dice Game

French Subjunctive Exercise – Subjunctive or Indicative? – Le subjonctif

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Links to help practice the present subjunctive

Conjugate «prendre» in the present subjunctive

«Il faut que» is always followed by the subjunctive

Conjugate «savoir» in the present subjunctive

Conjugate «avoir» in the present subjunctive

«Aimer que» »Détester que» + present subjunctive

Conjugate «pouvoir» in the present subjunctive

Conjugate «être» in the present subjunctive

«Vouloir que» is always followed by the subjunctive

Conjugate «aller» in the present subjunctive

Conjugate «faire» in the present subjunctive

«Il est important que» + subjunctive

Conjugate regular verbs in the present subjunctive

Online exercise:  Regular subjunctive

Online exercise:  Using the subjunctive when there’s a doubt

Online exercise:  Irregular subjunctive

21 Comments

  1. Yes, that was really comprehensive. I remember studying this in grade 13 and never really fully understanding it – just used it by memorizing and using it the same way a child would – just by hearing it, but not really knowing why the verb is different. You have this really well organized and easy to understand. I did find the scrolling up and down to pause the video a bit cumbersome, but I really like being able to read along with the lesson as I am a visual learner.

    Reply
    • The easiest way is to split the screen so you have jennifer talking on one side and the lesson on the other. Joe.

      Reply
  2. Merci beaucoup pour cette exercise..ll été vraiment super..

    Reply
    • De rien Amit! Vous pouvez aussi regarder nos autres vidéos sur YouTube! A bientôt!

      Reply
  3. Just came across your lesson. I enjoyed it a lot and found your system very useful.

    Reply
  4. Thank you very much for this very clear lesson you are a great teacher. I had never understood the subjunctive until I followed your lesson – now I do

    Reply
  5. This is definitely a comprehensive teaching…loved every bit…thanks a ton…merci beaucoup madame..

    Reply
  6. Love the structured approach !!! Will be listening to my podcast Les Toques France Blue and trying to identify subjunctives. Thank you so much

    Reply
  7. Love the structured approach !!! Will be listening to my podcast Les Toques Françe Blue and trying to identify subjunctives . Thank you so much.

    Reply
  8. Merci beaucoup pour le lecon!

    Reply
  9. You have a real teaching talent. Thank you…now to practice

    Reply
    • Merci, Jacqueline 🙂 Practice does make perfect. Be sure to try and incorporate using the subjunctive when you speak French as well as when you write. Hopefully it will start sounding natural to you. Bon courage! – Jennifer

      Reply
  10. I really enjoy this lesson.I have a better understanding of subjunctive.thanks to Ms Jennifer Crespin.

    Reply
  11. Amazing teacher. I wish you were there at school as well.

    Reply
  12. Thank you for making French easy, you have great teaching skills

    Reply
  13. Brilliant teaching. I have enjoyed your leçon on the subjunctive so much I have found that the whole morning has passed in a flash. You have made it very clear. Bravo!

    Reply
  14. How are you doing with French at school this year? So glad to know this lesson helped you with the subjunctive 🙂

    Reply
  15. Thank you for this very helpful explanation of the subjunctive! I didn’t like the way the textbook I use taught this tense, so I went looking online for a better way. I stumbled on your video/blog and will be using in my class today. I’ll be returning to your site!
    Valerie

    Reply
    • Hi Valerie, I’m so glad you came across my blog and that you’ll be able to use my lesson on the subjunctive in your class. Please do come back soon 🙂

      Reply
  16. Thanks for this lesson but I don’t understand why the answers are written beside the exercise questions?

    Reply

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