Today we will talk about 3 common mistakes with the subjunctive in French!

When you learn the subjunctive, whether in school, from books or from an app, one rule keeps coming back: “we use the subjunctive after ‘que’ to express emotions or opinions.”

This rule appears to be simple, and yet when you want to put it into practise, it doesn’t work.

Why?

Because the subjunctive is one of the most complicated tenses in French, and it uses a certain amount of subjectivity.

This is why we have created a course specially dedicated to the subjunctive, from A2 level to B2 level – to help you understand all the secrets of the subjunctive at home!

But today I want to talk to you about 3 common mistakes with the subjunctive in French:

1.    You Must Absolutely Have 2 Different Subjects

One of the mistakes I see the most often amongst my students is using the subjunctive with the same subject.

For example:

“Je suis heureuse que je sache le subjonctif.”  (I am happy that I know the subjunctive)

The sound of the mistake alarm! (that I always have in my office): beeeeep

Big mistake.

You must absolutely have 2 different subjects in the sentence. The subject of the first clause must be different to the subject of the subordinate clause.

For example you could say:

 Je suis heureuse qu’il sache le subjonctif.  (I am happy that he knows the subjunctive.)

Or  je suis heureuse de savoir le subjonctif.  (I am happy that I know the subjunctive.)

As you can see, if there is only one subject, you must use the infinitive in the second part of the sentence. Even if your introductory verb usually takes the subjunctive.

Does that make sense?

Moving on now to the second mistake.

3 erreurs avec le subjonctif

2. All Clauses Introduced by “que” are in the Subjunctive

In the beginning, when we first learn the rules of the subjunctive, we think that all verbs preceded by “que” will be in the subjunctive.

This is normal, because we learn the following rule:

Subject + Introductory verb + “que” + Subject + Verb in the Subjunctive

But what is important to know is that we do not use the subjunctive with every verb followed by “que”.

For example, you could say:

“Je doute qu’il soit sympathique” (I doubt that he is nice)

But you cannot say:

“Je pense qu’il soit sympathique” (I think that he is nice)

3 erreurs avec le subjonctif

3. Certain Verbs are Followed by the Subjunctive in the Negative Form

Using the last example again.

We said that “Je pense qu’il soit sympathique” is not correct.

But on the other hand: “Je ne pense pas qu’il soit sympathique “(I do not think that he is nice) is correct.

Why?

Because “je ne pense pas que “(I don’t think that) expresses an opinion in the negative form.

There is a more precise list of verbs followed by the subjunctive which I will tell you about in my complete course on the subjunctive.

What about you? Have you made these mistakes?

What other mistakes do you make in the subjunctive?

Leave your responses in the comments.

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Priscilla, professeur de français à l’institut linguistique alpha.b à Nice