Hello there, bonjour et bienvenue !
Today I have prepared an introduction to the mysterious mode that is the Subjunctive. If you already speak Spanish or Italian, it might not be so mysterious after all. But for a lot of English natives, this part of the conjugation is a major issue and therefore they prefer to avoid using it. To be honest, the subjunctive is a non-negotiable part of speaking French since it's used daily. To get started, I suggest you simply stick to some basic and familiar formula, maybe even prepare the sentence that you think you might use. Now let's dive in!
C'est parti !
The subjunctive mode is often overwhelming for Anglophones, since it doesn't exist in English. As a mode and not a tense, it defines a particular frame to the expression of the language. Whereas the Indicative mode is plain and used to comment, report, declare without any particular shade to it, the subjunctive is used to refer, in the present or the past to a potential event or an emotion.
It basically breaks the continuing timeline into two things, what is occurring, what could / should be happening.
The subjunctive is usually triggered by a structure that calls for the following. The most common one, would be the French expression "il faut que"
We usually translate "il faut que" by "it is necessary that" but simply put, the English translation is actually better translated in context. Indeed, you've never heard anyone say "It is necessary that I was my car" but rather "I must wash my car." The French sentence simply re frames the obligation into a more general structure.
Various formulas exist to introduce the subjunctive mode but "il faut que" is the most common of all.
All these structures have one thing in common though, they all contain the relative pronoun "que" which is why books normally list the conjugation of a verb at it subjunctive form as
que je ...
For regular verbs of the first and second group (all the -er verbs -except aller - and some -ir verbs too) and also some 3rd group verbs will follow this rule:
- Chanter = infinitive form
- ils chantent (present indicative 3rd person plural)
- Keep "chant-"
- -e, -es, -e, -ions, -iez, ent
- Que je chante
- Que tu chantes
- Qu'ils chante
- Que nous chantions
- Que vous chantiez
- Qu'ils chantent
Now you might think, well, this looks a whole lot like the Indicative mode, doesn't it?
Well, if we choose the root form from the 3rd person plural, it's simply because that is the form that will most likely result into the suitable root for the subjunctive conjugation. With -er and -ir verbs, it might not be obvious, but see with the 3rd group verb "connaître"
Ex: Je connais (present indicative)
Ils connaissent (Present, Indicative - 3rd person plural)
+ e, -es, -e, -ions, -iez, -ent
- Que je connaisse
- Que tu connaisses
- Qu'il connaissent
- Que nous connaissions
- Que vous connaissiez
- Qu'ils connaissent
See, how the Indicative and Subjunctive form change?
So, in order to have one formula, it was decided that reusing the from from the 3rd person plural was the safest road.
Some verbs are obviously irregular:
To see, hear and practice the most common and irregular forms of the subjunctive, have a look at the Flash test by clicking below!