Uses of the Subjunctive

The subjunctive is a mood that reflects the subject's attitude: wishing, wanting, emotions, doubt, denial, and disbelief. Although the subjunctive is used far more frequently in French than in English, you can avoid using it.

The subjunctive is not a tense (which indicates time) but can be put into a time frame. The present subjunctive is the most prevalent and expresses both present and future time.

The present subjunctive refers to actions in the present or the future: Il est possible que je parte demain. (It's possible that I will leave tomorrow.)

The subjunctive is needed when all of the following conditions are met:

  • The sentence must contain two different clauses with two different subjects.
  • The clauses must be joined by que (that) or, in special instances, by qui.
  • One of the clauses must show wishing, wanting, need, necessity, emotion, doubt, or denial.

A French sentence using the subjunctive may have a differing English syntax that often omits the word “that” and uses an infinitive instead: Il est nécessaire que tu arrives tôt. (You have to arrive early. It is necessary that you arrive early.)