Delving into the French Subjunctive Posted by Elizabeth Schmermund on Feb 2, 2015 in Uncategorized
Last week, I spent some time introducing what the subjunctive mood expresses and how it is used in other languages, such as English. You can visit that post here.
This week, I would like to go into more concrete examples of how to form the present subjunctive and, just as importantly, how you can recognize when to use it.
There are two rules to keep in mind when forming the subjunctive from regular French verbs:
- In the nous and vous forms of the verb, the subjunctive form is identical to the imperfect form.
For example, vous dormiez is the correct imperfect AND subjunctive form.
If it was used as an imperfect form, it would look something like this: J’ai cuisiné pendant que vous dormiez. Pendant que does NOT take the subjunctive and this sentence means “I cooked while you were sleeping”.
However, this is the same verb in the subjunctive form: Il faut que vous dormiez. Since this is a command (“you must sleep” or “it is necessary that you sleep”), this is the subjunctive form of the verb dormir.
- Other forms of regular verbs in the subjunctive sound exactly like the third person plural of the present tense, except they are written with an -e(s) in the singular.
Continuing with the verb dormir, in the third-person plural of the present tense (ils dorment), you do not pronounce the -ent at the end of the word. This form will sound exactly like the je, tu, il/elle/on, and ils/elles forms of the subjunctive mood. This is a great trick to know especially when speaking, as the verb forms are pronounced the same whether or not you need to add an -e, -es, or -ent.
So here are all verb forms of dormir in the present subjunctive mood:
Did you notice that, in this case, the third person plural form of the subjunctive is exactly the same as the third person plural form of the regular present tense?
There’s a good reason for that. In order to form the subjunctive from regular verbs, you take the third person plural form and drop the -ent. Then you add the following endings:
Not too bad, right? The nice thing about the subjunctive is that you add the same endings no matter what kind of verb you use (whether -ir, -er, or -re). However, we’ve just gone over regular verbs here. Next week, look out for irregular verbs in the subjunctive. Although there are not too many irregular verbs that are commonly used in the subjunctive, you still need to be able to recognize them.