French Language Blog

*IL FAUT* que tu apprennes le Français (You *Must* Learn French)! Posted by on Mar 30, 2014 in Grammar, Vocabulary

Learning French is not optional anymore; it is now mandatory! Well, just kidding, bien sûr

One thing you must do, however, if you already speak French, is to watch out for the good use of le subjonctif.

Just pay a bit of attention to when French people speak, or to French books, articles, etc., you will often come across the expressions “il faut…” (“it is necessary…”) and “il faut que…” (“it is necessary to…”)

One of the reasons why some new learners of French language are confused about the use of these expressions is because “faut” comes from the rather unusual verb “falloir“, which always comes in une forme impersonnelle (an impersonal form.)

* * *

If “il faut” is followed by a verb, then we normally apply the well-known grammatical rule according to which “when two verbs follow each other, the second one is always in mode infinitif“:

For example, “il faut partir” (“It’s necessary/it’s time to leave.”)

  • The Spanish homme de lettres Cervantes, of Don Quixote fame, is known to have inspired one of the most popular expressions used by ex-French President François Mitterrand: “il faut donner du temps au temps” (“One must give some time to time.”)

Notice that the verb donner is in mode infinitif because it followed another verb, falloir.

* * *

With the expression “il faut que“, you should keep in mind that it must always be followed by the mode subjonctif (subjunctive mode):

  • Il faut que nous soyons à la hauteur des exigences du public (“We must live up to the public’s expectations.”)
  • Il faut qu’elle soit plus attentive à l’école” (“She must pay more attention in school.”)
  • Il faut que je sois à la gare de train avant midi!” (“I must be at the train station before noon!”)

Notice that “sois“, “soit“, “soyons“, are all subjunctive forms of the verb “être” (“to be.”)

* * *

 Notice also that the verb “falloir” can itself be conjugated in the mode subjonctif, as in this example:

  • Cette règle est facile à comprendre, bien qu’il faille faire attention à ses exceptions” (“This rule is easy to understand, although one should be careful with its exceptions.”)

Or in the negative form (using the particle “ne“):

  • Je trouve cette peinture assez impressionnantebien qu’il ne faille pas confondre beauté et esthétique.” (“I find this painting rather impressive, although one should not confuse beauty and aesthetics.”)
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  1. Perla:

    Thank you I like it . It was very easy to understand about subjonctif