Iggy and other characters in a classroom. Iggy with his hand raised saying “Je pense que…”

The French subjunctive mood may seem complicated and intimidating to learn, but you probably use it in English all the time without thinking about it. Statements like “if I were you…,” “it’s important that…,” and “I suggest…” are all the English subjunctive — they express opinions, desires, and other subjective statements.

However, the subjunctive is much more widely used in French, and there are some special conditions you need to meet before using it. Read on, and learn everything you need to know about using the subjunctive in French!

What Is the Subjunctive in French?

The French subjunctive, or subjonctif French, is a special form of verb called a grammatical mood. As the name implies, it indicates subjectivity in the dependent clause of a sentence. That is, statements in the French subjunctive may not be factual — they are influenced by possibility, judgment, preference, emotion, and other personal triggers.

Learning to use the subjunctive in French is a crucial step towards being able to express your thoughts, opinions, desires, and feelings. You can also use it to discuss theoretical scenarios. With that all said, the highly versatile French subjunctive is actually even easier to learn than you think. Once you memorize a few phrases and how to conjugate the French verbs in this form, you’ll be ready to go!

Conditions for the Subjunctive Mood

Understanding when and how the subjunctive mood can be used will not only help you construct subjunctive phrases yourself — it will also help you learn to identify them when you read and listen to others.

Sentences With Two Subjects

One of the conditions for using the subjunctive in French is that the sentence must have two different subjects in the independent and dependent clause. The verb being acted by the second subject will use the subjunctive, unless it is an impersonal verb.



Nous voulons tu fasses tes devoirs.

We want you to do your homework.

Our two subjects in the sentence above are nous and elle. Since the verb être — to be — is being acted by the second subject, it is conjugated in the subjunctive form.

You can also tell that the subjunctive should be used here because of the sentence’s content. “You” doing your homework is not something that’s actually happening. Rather, it is something “we” want to happen. In other words, a subjective desire.

Pocky and Soren standing side by side. Pocky holds up one finger, and Soren holds up two.

“Que” and Subjunctive Phrases

The other main condition for using the subjunctive is the conjunction que, meaning “that.” The subjunctive is always indicated with a phrase ending in this conjunction. Let’s take a look at some of the most commonly used phrases and verbs below. As you’ll notice, certain verbs used usually express some kind of emotion, opinion, or desire.



Il faut que tu

You have to

Il vaut mieux que

It is better that

Il est nécessaire que

It is necessary that

Il est regrettable que

It is regrettable that

Il est peu probable que

It is unlikely that

Il est essentiel que

It is essential that

Il est utile que

It is useful that

Il est étonnant que

It is astonishing that

Il est naturel que

It is natural that

Il est urgent que

It is urgent that

Il est normal que

It is normal that

Il est dommage que

It is shameful that

Il est temps que

It is time to

Notice how all of these phrases start with the pronoun il; this is a very common formulation to express one’s opinion or feeling. However, there are other phrase constructions you can use.



Recommander que

to recommend that

Être triste que

to be sad that

Avoir peur que

to fear that

Avoir honte que

to be ashamed that

Aimer mieux que

to like better than

Penser que

to think that

Tenir à ce que

hold on to that

Être surpris que

to be surprised that

Regretter que

to regret that

À moins que

unless that

Negative phrases can be formed in the same way by using the common ne…pas phrase around the verb in the main clause.



Il n'est pas vrai que

It is not true that

Il n'est pas sûr que

It is not sure that

Il n'est pas clair que

It is not clear that

Il n'est pas évident que

It is not evident that

Je ne pense pas que

I don’t think that

There are dozens more common phrases that are used with the French subjunctive, but this list should give you some great ideas on how to express yourself! Now that you know how to set up the main clause, let’s talk about forming the subjunctive.

How to Form the Subjunctive

To form a subjunctive verb, simply take the present tense verb stem and add appropriate subjunctive endings.

Benji in front of a chalkboard holding an eraser. On the chalkboard is written “Danser” with the “er” being erased.

Conjugating Regular French Verbs

For -er and -re verbs:

  • (Je) -e
  • (tu) -es
  • (Il/Elle) -e
  • (Nous) -ions
  • (Vous) -iez
  • (Ils/Elles) -ent

Notice how, except for the nous and vous forms, these endings are the same as those for the present tense.

For -ir verbs:

  • (Je) -isse
  • (Tu) -isses
  • (Il/Elle) -isse
  • (Nous) -issions
  • (Vous) -issiez
  • (Ils/Elles) -issent

Conjugating Irregular Verbs

As you probably already know, French has many irregular verbs, and the subjunctive forms are no exception. However, once you start learning them, you will notice that most follow their own kind of patterns. Let’s go over some of the most common ones.




to go

  • Je aille
  • Tu ailles
  • Il/Elle aille
  • Nous allions
  • Vous alliez
  • Ils/Elles aillent




to have

  • Je aie
  • Tu aies
  • Il/Elle ait
  • Nous ayons
  • Vous ayez
  • Ils/Elles aient




to be

  • Je sois
  • Tu sois
  • Il/Elle soit
  • Nous soyons
  • Vous soyez
  • Ils/Elles soient




to make, to do

  • Je fasse
  • Tu fasses
  • Il/Elle fasse
  • Nous fassions
  • Vous fassiez
  • Ils/Elles fassent




to can, to be able to

  • Je puisse
  • Tu puisses
  • Il/Elle puisse
  • Nous puissions
  • Vous puissiez
  • Ils/Elles puissent

The Four French Subjunctive Forms

What we’ve talked about mostly so far is the present subjunctive, which is the most commonly used, there are three other forms you should know: the imperfect subjunctive, the past subjunctive, and the pluperfect subjunctive.

Let’s dive in!

 Iggy reading what looks like a very old French book.

The Imperfect Subjunctive

The imperfect subjunctive is a unique tense that is largely defunct except for literary and historical writing. Still, it is important to be familiar with its unique conjugations, so you can recognize it while reading.

Luckily, all verbs share the same conjugation. Keeping the verb stem, including the last vowel, the following subjunctive endings are added:

  • (Je) -sse
  • (Tu) -sses
  • (Il/Elle) -^t
  • (Nous) -ssions
  • (Vous) -ssiez
  • (Ils/Elles) -ssent

The Past Subjunctive

The past subjunctive has two different functions: to express how someone feels now about something that happened in the past, or to express how they felt in the past when something happened or didn’t happen.

Depending on which idea you want, the verb in your main clause will be in either the present or past tense. Then, it’s on to the subjunctive clause.

To construct the past subjunctive, two things need to happen.

First, an auxiliary verb (avoir or être) must be conjugated in the subjunctive mood. Second, the main verb of the dependent clause must be conjugated in the past participle.



Je suis heureux que tu sois venu à la fête.

I am happy that you came to the party.

The Pluperfect Subjunctive

The pluperfect subjunctive is another tense that is not used in modern French language but exists exclusively in literature and historical documents. All you need to form it is an auxiliary verb conjugated into the imperfect subjunctive combined with the past participle of the acting verb.

This tense is only used when the verb of the main clause is also in the past.



Je ne croyais pas qu'il fût revenu.

I didn't think he had come back.

The Bottom Line

Soren holding up a poster with Langster’s logo on it.

While this mood may seem odd at first, knowing how to formulate the subjunctive in French is essential for expressing yourself in French — and, it’s easier than you think!

For more practice with the subjunctive mood and other fun French grammar things, why not head over to Langster? With free stories, grammar explanations, and audio by native speakers, you’ll feel comfortable using the French subjunctive in no time!