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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Candice here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I'll answer your most common French questions.
The question for this lesson is When should I use the subjunctive?
Le subjonctif can be difficult for English speakers, since English doesn’t really have a subjunctive mood. Luckily, conjugating the subjunctive is pretty easy. The endings are always the same, but there are some irregular stems. We’ll go over some of the irregular stems in this lesson so you can get used to them.
So when do we use the subjunctive? We use the subjunctive after expressions like craindre que - “to fear”, aimer que - “to like”, détester que -“to hate”, souhaiter que -“to wish”, douter que - “to doubt”, sembler que - “to seem” and falloir que - “to have to/must”. What do these expressions have in common? They express fear, a wish, a command, and uncertainty. Things that are uncertain, but that we have subjective feelings about.
Let’s look at some examples. First, Il faut que j’apprenne le subjonctif. meaning “I must learn subjunctive”, which is a command. Je suis content que tu sois content meaning “I’m happy that you’re happy” is a feeling. And Je veux qu’il le fasse meaning “I want him to do it” expresses a will or desire.
There are a few things to note here. One, we need two subjects for the subjunctive – one person wanting, wishing, fearing, or demanding another person to do something. Second, take a look at the first sentence, elle ne pense pas que je parle français. This is where subjunctive can get tricky. “She doesn’t think that I can speak French,” meaning she doubts that I can. If she thinks I can, then there is no attitude of doubt. In this case, we don’t use the subjunctive. So ne pas penser que - “to not think” uses the subjunctive, whereas penser que - “to think”, doesn’t.
Do people use the subjunctive in spoken French? This is a tough question. In written French, you must use the subjunctive when necessary. But in spoken French, it’s not so common and French people will understand that you are still learning. However, if you want to speak proper, elegant French, then definitely use the subjunctive.
Pretty neat, right?
If you have any more questions, please leave a comment below!
A bientôt, see you soon!