Understanding the French Subjunctive (for Beginners)
Introduction: The French subjunctive is a grammatical mood used to express doubt, uncertainty, wishes, emotions, and other non-real actions or states. It is used in dependent clauses that follow certain verbs, conjunctions, or expressions of doubt or emotion.
- Formation: To form the French subjunctive, use the present tense of the third person plural form of the verb and then drop the -nt. For example:
- Parler (to speak) becomes qu’ils parlent (that they speak)
- Finir (to finish) becomes qu’ils finissent (that they finish)
- Être (to be) becomes qu’ils soient (that they be)
- Uses: The French subjunctive is used in several different situations, including:
- Expressing doubt or uncertainty: Il est possible qu’ils viennent. (It is possible that they come.)
- Expressing wishes, hopes, or desires: Je souhaite qu’ils réussissent. (I hope that they succeed.)
- Expressing emotions: Il est important que tu sois heureux. (It is important that you are happy.)
- Expressing non-real actions or states: Si j’étais riche, je voyagerais beaucoup. (If I were rich, I would travel a lot.)
- Triggers: There are certain verbs, conjunctions, and expressions that trigger the use of the French subjunctive. Some of the most common include:
- Il faut que (it is necessary that)
- Il est bon que (it is good that)
- Il est important que (it is important that)
- Il est douteux que (it is doubtful that)
- Si (if)
- Practice: Practice using the French subjunctive in context. Look for opportunities to use it in conversation and writing, and pay attention to the verbs, conjunctions, and expressions that trigger its use.
Conclusion: The French subjunctive is a valuable tool for expressing doubt, uncertainty, wishes, emotions, and non-real actions or states. By understanding how to form and use the subjunctive, you’ll be able to communicate more effectively in the French language and express yourself with greater nuance and precision.