Telling someone to do something doesn’t mean it’ll happen… (Subjunctive in French, part 1)

Updated: Sep 3

The subjunctive in French is often referred to as a tense, but in fact, it is a mood, not a tense. A tense means that the action will happen, is happening or has happened, but when the action is not a given reality, we have to use the subjunctive in French.

There are many situations that can trigger the use of the subjunctive and the one we're going to look at today is obligation.

In English, this construction is straightforward (for English speakers... you'll be pleased to know that people learning English find it tricky!) We'd say, 'it is necessary / essential to pay in advance' or 'I have to explain some rules to you'. In French, however, you have to use 'que' and a second verb, which is in the subjunctive.

Let's look at this sentence: 'il faut que vous payiez 2€'. LIterally, we are saying, 'it is necessary that you pay 2€'. As we don't know whether they are actually going to pay the money, the second verb 'payiez' is in the subjunctive.

Without knowing the reasons for using the subjunctive, we can just learn which verbs will trigger it. So, some of the verbs that express obiligation (or a lack of it) and thus need the subjunctive are the following:

- il faut que...

- il est nécessaire que...

- il est essentiel que...

- il est indispensable que...

Et pour terminer, il n'est pas nécessaire que vous donniez un 'like' ou laissiez un commentaire pour cet article, mais cela me ferait plaisir... :)

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