Easy French Grammar: do you doubt it?
It’s a windy, mundane day in Melbourne. I’m sitting with my laptop, café au lait in hand, pondering the difficulties of French grammar, in particular the subjunctive mood.
I am somehow hoping that the problem of its seemingly difficult structure will enter my stubborn brain through quick osmosis …mon dieu, I wish I were in France.
Attendez! Why should it be so difficult in French if I use it unknowingly in English? What have I been worried about all these years! It’s been yelled by many British – “God save the Queen!”; pranced around by Tevye – “If I were a rich man”; and now in my own musings – “I wish I were in France”.
All quite subjective phrases!
So why does the subjunctive mood seem so difficult to use in French grammar? Really, we should blame the process of education. It is always the very final mood that we learn in French. French grammar seems to cop a lot of slack for being trop difficile. So, by the time we get to learn the subjunctive, we’ve just about had enough of all the different forms of verbal expression!
However, I beg, please do not lose hope. The subjunctive mood is a beautiful form of articulation! It is necessary to use with reasonable regularity as it allows a degree of uncertainty within a statement.
French grammar rules: when to use the subjunctive
There are a few different ways in which to use the subjunctive mood. In fact, we use it très facilement almost every day in English without even realising how! So, the first thing to master with the subjunctive mood in French grammar is when exactly we should be using it.
1. Doubt – expressing that you are uncertain about something – do you expect the event to occur? Will it happen? Does it matter whether it will happen or not… therefore are you just unsure of the possibility? Especially if it is your personal opinion! Eg. Je doute qu’il soit là (I doubt he’ll be there).
2. Will – you wish for something to occur or maybe you wish something upon somebody. For example, will God really save the Queen? You don’t know, but you wish it to happen. Eg. je souhaite qu’il soit silent (I wish that he would be quiet).
3. Favourable or unfavourable judgement – usually we use ‘impersonal construction’ here, but the sentence still expresses something that is desired or you would like. Eg. Il est nécessaire que je boive du vin! (It’s necessary that I drink some wine!)
4. Emotion – we all know that emotions are just subjective in general! They are what we feel and they can be fleeting. The emotions used with the subjunctive are still something that we wish for… eg. Je suis contente que vous parliez le français (I am happy that you speak French).
For those who love French grammar, it can be said that the subjunctive is almost always a dependant clause (dependant on the introducing phrase). It will be introduced by either a main clause (using the indicative mood) or a certain relative clause.
So, if you ever doubt the probability of something occurring or something being possible, the subjunctive is generally used. Of course, given these categories, the subjunctive is always introduced by certain set phrases. With regular use, you’ll find that using the subjunctive to express your wishes, desires, emotions and doubts will soon become second nature!
Qu’il soit facile, qu’il soit difficile….
How have you tackled the subjunctive mood in French grammar? Share your experiences and any difficulties you may have encountered with the subjunctive in the comments section below.Image credits:
1. Dior quotation, Cara Downs, via Pinterest.
2. Light bulb, Core Math 912.
3. Star Wars, The French Whisperer.
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