When should I use the subjunctive?

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Firstly, the important thing to remember is that the subjunctive is not a tense, but a mood used to express doubt, incertitude, and desire. The subjunctive has different tenses within it, therefore cannot be described as being one tense alone. It may seem complicated at first but once you understand the general rules, it becomes easier to recognise and use!

 

The subjunctive is used:

1) To express doubt. For example "Je ne pense pas que ce soit une bonne idée" 

 

2) To command someone to do something. For example "Je veux que tu le fasses."

 

3) When triggered by particular phrases that require the subjunctive in the next part of the clause. These include "bien que" "pour que" "afin que" "à moins que"

 

4) To express necessity. For example, "il est essentiel qu'on fasse un effort pour protéger l'environnement."

 

5) To express emotion. For example, "Je suis triste qu'il ne soit pas là". 

 

Remember that by contrast, the indicative is used in sentences to express certainty and undeniable truth or fact. For example, "il est certain que c'est vrai". However, when used in the negative, phrases such as "il n'est pas certain que", "il n'est pas vrai que" "il n'est pas clair que" then require the use of the subjunctive as they express doubt.

Therefore, "il est certain que c'est vrai" becomes "il n'est pas certain que ce soit vrai" in the subjunctive.

 

I hope this has been useful, and will be happy to answer any other questions you might have about the subjunctive mood! 

Jennifer S. GCSE French tutor, A Level French tutor, GCSE Spanish tut...

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