The French language is renowned for its complexities, and one area that often confuses learners is the subjunctive mood. Used to express doubt, uncertainty, desire, or necessity, the subjunctive can be an intimidating topic.

Learn the rules for French subjunctive

However, mastering the French subjunctive is within reach, with a clear understanding of its rules and plenty of practice. This blog’s primary purpose is to explore the intricacies of the subjunctive mood, providing you with a comprehensive guide that explains this aspect of French grammar. So, let’s get started!

Understanding the French subjunctive: Usage, conjugations and examples

The subjunctive mood is used in French to convey subjective ideas such as doubt, possibility, necessity, or emotion. It is often found in subordinate clauses introduced by que (that), although other conjunctions can also trigger its use. The subjunctive is characterized by its distinct verb forms, which differ from the indicative mood.

Usage of the French subjunctive

Several situations require the use of the subjunctive mood in French. Here are some common triggers:

Wishes and desires

  • Je veux que tu viennes. (I want you to come.)
  • Il faut que nous partions. (We must leave.)

Emotions and feelings

  • Je suis content qu’il réussisse. (I am happy that he is succeeding.)
  • Il est triste que vous ne veniez pas. (It is sad that you are not coming.)

Doubt and uncertainty

  • Je doute qu’elle soit là. (I doubt that she is there.)
  • Il est possible que nous soyons en retard. (It is possible that we are late.)

Impersonal expressions

  • Il est nécessaire que vous finissiez le travail. (It is necessary for you to finish the work.)
  • Il vaut mieux que tu partes maintenant. (It is better for you to leave now.)

Conjugating verbs in the subjunctive

You must be aware of common French verbs to develop a command of the language. To conjugate verbs in the subjunctive mood, you must first identify the present tense ils/elles form of the verb. Then, remove the -ent ending to find the stem and add the appropriate subjunctive endings. Here is an example using the verb “parler” (to speak):

  • Ils parlent → stem: parl- → que je parle, que tu parles, qu’il/elle parle, que nous parlions, que vous parliez, qu’ils/elles parlent
Practice French subjunctive regularly

Irregular verbs in the subjunctive

While most verbs follow regular patterns in the subjunctive, some have irregular conjugations. Here are a few common irregular verbs in the subjunctive:

  • Être: que je sois, que tu sois, qu’il/elle soit, que nous soyons, que vous soyez, qu’ils/elles soient
  • Avoir: que j’aie, que tu aies, qu’il/elle ait, que nous ayons, que vous ayez, qu’ils/elles aient
  • Faire: que je fasse, que tu fasses, qu’il/elle fasse, que nous fassions, que vous fassiez, qu’ils/elles fassent

Some examples of the subjunctive in context

To better understand how the subjunctive is used in real-life situations, let’s look at some examples in context:

  • Il faut que tu fasses tes devoirs. (You must do your homework.)
  • Je veux que vous veniez avec nous. (I want you to come with us.)
  • Il est important que nous sachions la vérité. (It is important for us to know the truth.)

Importance of learning French subjunctive

The subjunctive mood is an essential aspect of French grammar, and learning how to use it correctly is crucial for anyone seeking fluency. Here are some reasons why learning the French subjunctive is essential:

Forming complex sentences: The subjunctive is often used in complex sentences with conjunctions such as “que” (that). Mastering the subjunctive allows you to construct more sophisticated sentences and convey complex ideas.

Understanding written French: The subjunctive is commonly used in written French, especially in literature, formal writing, and journalism. A strong grasp of the subjunctive is essential for understanding and interpreting written texts.

Improving communication skills: Correctly using the subjunctive can enhance your communication skills in French, allowing you to express yourself more precisely and effectively.

Knowing French grammar improves communication skills

Cultural understanding: Understanding the subjunctive is essential for fully comprehending French culture and literature, as it is a fundamental part of the language’s expressive capabilities.

Professional and academic use: In professional and academic contexts, knowing how to use the subjunctive correctly can help you write more persuasively and convincingly, benefiting fields such as law, diplomacy, and academia.

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Frequently asked questions

When should I use the subjunctive in French?

The subjunctive is used in several situations, including expressing wishes, desires, doubts, uncertainty, emotions, and necessity. It is also used after certain verbs and expressions that indicate subjective ideas.

Is the subjunctive used in spoken French?

While the subjunctive is more common in written French and formal speech, it is still used in spoken French, especially in certain situations requiring it to convey specific meanings.

How can I practice using the subjunctive in French?

Practice is key to mastering the subjunctive. You can practice by writing sentences using the subjunctive, reading texts that contain the subjunctive, and listening to native speakers use the subjunctive in context.


The French subjunctive mood is a crucial aspect of the language that allows speakers to express various feelings and attitudes. By understanding its rules and practicing regularly, you can gain confidence in using the subjunctive correctly.

So, embrace the challenge, book your lessons at italki, and soon master this essential aspect of French grammar.

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