What is the subjunctive?

The subjunctive is a mood used in French to express emotions or ideas which are uncertain or subjective. Examples include to express doubt, emotions or will/ wanting.

There isn't really an English equivalent any more, except for the odd few phrases, such as 'If I were' rather than 'if I was.' This is why English students find it particularly difficult to wrap their head around the concept, but unfortunately it can't be avoided because the French actually do use it all the time!

The subjunctive in French only appears either in the present tense, or in the past tense (passé composé), and has certain endings to match.

Another really important thing to remember is that the subjunctive very rarely appears without a 'trigger', and is therefore nearly always found in dependent clauses introduced by que or qui. For example: 'il faut que j'aille (present subjunctive of avoir), or 'je ne pense pas que je doive y aller' (present subjunctive of devoir). Unfortunately there is no shortcut to remembering the majority of these triggers, and they simply have to be learnt through study and endless practice! 

Madeleine S. A Level French tutor, GCSE French tutor, GCSE History tu...

7 months ago

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