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Present subjunctive:

Present subjunctive -- formation

Most verbs form their subjunctive stem from the third person plural of the present indicative. The -ent of the third person plural is dropped and the subjunctive endings (-e, -es, -e, -ions, -iez, -ent) are added in its place:


que je pense
que tu penses
qu'il pense
que nous pensions
que vous pensiez
qu'elles pensent

Samples from other verbs:

qu'il voie
que nous répondions
que nous regardions
que vous choisissiez
que tu mentes

Note that some verb forms in the present indicative and present subjunctive are indistinguishable. In such cases the mood can usually be identified by the context:

je regarde (indicative)
que je regarde (subjunctive)

Note that if the verb stem ends in "i," the first and second person plural forms in the subjunctive will contain a double "i":

étudier: que vous étudiiez
s'écrier: que nous nous écriions

A great many verbs -- especially common verbs, like avoir, être, aller, vouloir, pouvoir, and faire are irregular in the present subjunctive. Here are a few of the most common verbs, given with stems for both je, tu, il, ils, and for nous, vous (these stems will also hold for the derivatives of these verbs, such as revenir, devenir, refaire, reprendre, etc.):

avoir: ai-, ay-
aller: aill-, all-
pouvoir: puiss-, puiss-
faire: fass-, fass-
savoir: sach-, sach-
croire: croi-, croy-
boire: boiv-, buv-
devoir: doiv-, dev-
prendre: prenn-, pren-
tenir: tienn-, ten-
venir: vienn-, ven-
voir: voi-, voy-
vouloir: veuill-, voul-

Present subjunctive -- use

The subjunctive is a mood, which means that it serves to express the attitude or impression of the speaker. Frequently, statements in the subjunctive indicate uncertainty, emotion, obligation, or opinion. Sometimes the subjunctive is required for purely syntactical reasons, such as after certain conjunctions.

Statements in the subjunctive are always introduced by an explicit or implicit statement in the indicative, which means that the subjunctive usually comes in second position:

Je veux (indicative) que tu fasses (subjunctive) tes devoirs. (I want you to do your homework.)

Doubt, emotion, obligation. Many introductory statements, expressions of doubt, emotion, obligation, or opinion, will lead to verbs in the subjunctive. The list of personal and impersonal expressions usually followed by the subjunctive is long, and includes (but is not limited to) the following:

être content, triste, fâché, ravi, surpris, désolé + que...;
vouloir, douter, regretter, craindre, avoir peur + que...;
il est important, obligatoire, dommage, nécessaire, étonnant, possible, impossible, important, rare, naturel, raisonnable, surprenant + que...;
il semble que, il se peut que, il faut que.


Elle doute que nous puissions réussir. (She doubts that we can succeed.)
Il a peur que demain (ne) soit trop tard. (He fears that tomorrow might be too late.)
Je suis content que tu veuilles nous aider. (I am glad that you want to help us.)
Il est important que vous arriviez à l'heure. (It is important that you arrive on time.)
Il faut que nous partions tout de suite. (It is necessary that we leave right away.)

Note, however, that certain expressions (including verbs of opinion) may not require the subjunctive if the doubt or opinion is attenuated or negated. Similarly, expressions indicating certainty -- even if the certainty is a matter of opinion -- will generally not require the subjunctive. So:

A. Je suis sûr que tu peux (or: pourras) le faire.
(No doubt is expressed.)
Je ne suis pas sûr que tu puisses le faire.
(Ne pas être sûr is the same as douter.)

B. Je ne pense pas que ce soit une bonne idée.
(Ne pas penser indicates hesitation, uncertainty.)
Je pense que c'est une bonne idée.
(Penser in the affirmative is an assertion verging on certainty.)

C. Il est possible que nous venions ce soir.
(Il est possible que indicates an element of uncertainty.)
Il est probable que nous viendrons ce soir.
(Il est probable que is judged to be sufficiently certain as to require the indicative.)

D. Il semble que les chiens soient plus doux que les chats.
(Il semble que is followed by subjunctive.)
Il me semble que les chiens sont plus doux que les chats.
(Il me semble que is judged to be an assertion, and is followed by the indicative.)

Note, also, that normally the subjunctive cannot be used if there is no change of subject between the two parts of the sentence. When the subject is the same, an infinitive construction is generally used:

Elle veut que je parte maintenant. (She wants me to leave right away.)
Elle veut partir maintenant. (She wants to leave right away.)

Il est impossible que les Français veuillent moins de vacances. (It is impossible that the French should want shorter vacations.)
Il est impossible de vouloir moins de vacances. (It is impossible to want shorter vacations.)

Conjunctions. Many common conjunctions (e.g., et, mais, parce que...) are followed by the indicative. Certain conjunctions (pour que, afin que, quoique, pourvu que, de peur que, à condition que, à moins que, sans que), however, are followed by the subjuctive:

Téléphone à tes parents, afin qu'ils sachent où nous sommes. (Call your parents, so they know where we are.)
J'ai bien aimé ce film, quoiqu'il soit un peu long. (I really liked this film, although it was a bit long.)
Je t'accompagnerai à condition que tu me paies le voyage. (I'll go with you provided that you pay for my trip.)

However, if there is no change of subject between the two parts of the sentence, an infinitive construction is preferred, in which case certain conjunctions take on a prepositional form (pour, afin de, à condition de, de peur de, sans); a few conjunctions (quoique, pourvu que) have no prepositional form, and their form remains the same when used with a repeated subject. So,

Je vais leur téléphoner afin de commander une pizza. (I'm going to call them to order a pizza.)
Tu pourras venir à condition de faire tous les préparatifs nécessaires. (You can come as long as you do all the necessary preparation.)

BUT: Tu pourras réussir à cet examen pourvu que tu étudies! (You can pass this test as long as you study!)

Subordinate clauses, superlatives. Certain relative clauses (especially those following superlatives) may contain the subjunctive, although the subjunctive is rarely required in these cases. Rather, the subjunctive is used to emphasize either the subjective quality of a statement or the doubt the speaker feels:

Je cherche un étudiant qui vient de New York. (I.e., I know this student exists, and I am trying to locate him.)
Je cherche un appartement qui ne soit pas trop cher. (I.e., I am hoping to find such an apartment, although I don't know if it exists.)
C'est la seule réponse qu'il sait. (I.e., a statement of fact.)
C'est la meilleure réponse que je puisse imaginer. (I.e., a statement of opinion.)

Concessive statements. The phrases où que (wherever), quoi que (whatever), qui que (whoever), quel que (whichever), and si + adjective + que (however), are followed by the subjunctive:

Quoi que tu fasses, ne dis rien à mon petit ami! (Whatever you do, don't tell my boyfriend!)
Si idiot que ce soit, rends-moi ce service. (However idiotic it may be, do me this favor.)
Où que j'aille dans la vie, je me souviendrai de votre gentillesse. (Wherever I go in life, I will remember your kindness.)

Set expressions, commands. Certain set expressions are conjugated in the subjunctive:

Ainsi soit-il! (So be it!)
Vive le roi! (Long live the king!)
Advienne que pourra! (Come what may!)

A sentence beginning with Que... followed by the subjunctive denotes a command or an exhortation:

Qu'il parte tout de suite! (Let him leave immediately!)
Qu'on me dise la vérité! (Let someone tell me the truth!)

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