Tag Archive | French Verbs

Uses of the Subjunctive

Continuing on with the subjunctive subject, we’ll go over the uses of the subjunctive this week. The present subjunctive is used in subordinate clauses appearing after main clauses that imply that someone wants someone to do something or that someone wants something to happen that is not yet part of reality or that person’s experience.

Verbs of wanting or ordering someone to do something include vouloirdésirersouhaitervouloir bien (to be willing), commanderordonner (to order), and exiger (to demand).

The present subjunctive can follow a verb in any tense in the main clause.

Elle ne veut pas qu’il revienne. | She doesn’t want him to come back.

Nous souhaitons que vous trouviez un poste. | We hope that you will find a job.

Je veux bien que tu fasses sa connaissance. | I’d like for you to meet him.

J’ai ordonné que vous restiez. | I ordered you to remain.

Le prof a exigé que nous sachions tout. |The professor demanded that we know everything.

Verbs permitting, forbidding, and preventing include permettreautoriserdéfendreinterdire (to prohibit/forbid), éviter (to avoid), and empêcher (to avoid/prevent).

Je ne permettrai pas que vous me parliez comme ça. | I won’t allow you to speak to me like that.

Personne n’a autorisé que vous sortiez. | No one has authorised you to go out.

Je défends que tu me répondes sur ce ton. | I forbid you to answer me like that.

Il empêche que nous fassions notre travail. | He’s keeping us from doing our work.

Verbs of asking an suggesting include diredemandersuggérerproposer, and recommander.

Je dis qu’il vienne. | I’m telling him to come.

Il a demandé que tout le monde soit présent. | He asked that everyone be present.

Je suggère qu’ils y aillent. | I suggest that they go there.

Il propose que nous travaillions ensemble. | He suggests that we work together.

Vous recommandez que je prenne l’avion ? | Do you recommend that I take the plane?

Verbs that try to get someone to do something by expressing likes, preferences, or waiting include aimer (to want), aimer mieux (to prefer), préférer (to prefer), accepter (to agree), admettre (to allow), and attendre (to wait for).

J’aimerais que vous m’aidiez. | I’d like for you to help me.

J’aimerais mieux qu’elle s’en aille. | I’d prefer for her to go away.

Personne n’acceptera que tu partes. | No one will agree to your leaving.

Sa mère n’admettre pas qu’elle mette cette robe. | Her mother won’t allow her to wear that dress.

Nous attendons que vous soyez prêt. | We’re waiting for you to be ready.

This wraps up the subjunctive. Let me know if there’s something in particular you would like me to go over in a future post. Have a great week, everyone!

A bientôt !


The Subjunctive in Noun Clauses

A noun clause is a subordinate clause that functions as a noun, that is, it can serve as either the subject or the object of a verb. Noun clauses are introduced in French by the conjunction que.

The following examples have dependent noun clauses in the indicative. They show events perceived as part of reality because they are the objects of verbs such as savoirpenserentendre (dire), and voir.

Jesais que Jérôme habite ce quartier. | I know that Jérôme lives in this neighbourhood.

Je pense que la réunion est en haut. | I think that the meeting is upstairs.

On a entendu dire que l’entreprise a des problèmes. | We have heard that the firm has problems.

Je vois que les résultats sont bons. | I see that the results are good.

Note that in the above examples, the subordinate clauses beginning with que are the direct objects of the verbs. They all answer the question “Qu’est-ce que?

  • Qu’est-ce que tu sais ? → Je sais que Jérôme habite ce quartier.
  • Qu’est-ce que tu penses ? → Je pense que la réunion est en haut.
  • Qu’est-ce que vous avez entendu dire ? → On a entendu dire que l’entreprise a des problèmes.
  • Qu’est-ce que tu vois ?  → Je vois que les résultats sont bons.

Next week I will go over the uses of the subjunctive, so stay tuned for that! Have a great week, everyone!

A bientôt !


The Subjunctive : The Present Subjunctive

The Subjunctive is a mood used largely in subordinate clauses – clauses that do not stand alone but that are part of a larger sentence. The subjunctive is used after main clauses that express volition – the imposition of will to get someone else to do something; emotion – feelings, a personal reaction to an event or condition; and doubt – uncertainty, denial, or negation of facts and opinions.

Forming the Present Subjunctive

All French verbs, except for être, have the same endings in the present subjunctive. The stem of the present subjunctive for most verbs is the nous form of the present tense without the -ions ending. The following examples of subjunctive forms will be shown after il faut que (one must, it is necessary to/that):

parler (1st person plural present parlons, stem parl-) to speak

Il faut que je parle                  Il faut que nous parlions

Il faut que tu parles                Il faut que vous parliez

Il faut qu’il/elle/on parle          Il faut qu’ils/elles parlent

finir (1st person plural present finissons, stem finiss-) to finish

Il faut que je finisse                Il faut que nous finissions

Il faut que tu finisses             Il faut que vous finissiez

Il faut qu’il/elle/on finisse       Il faut qu’ils/elles finissent

vendre (1st person plural present vendons, stem vend-) to sell

Il faut que je vende                 Il faut que nous vendions

Il faut que tu vendes               Il faut que vous vendiez

Il faut qu’il/elle/on vende         Il faut qu’ils/elles vendent

In the subjunctive of -ir and -re verbs, the final consonant of the stem is sounded in the singular as well as the plural. The presence of that final consonant is the signal of the subjunctive in speech:

  • je finis vs. je finisse
  • je vends vs. je vende

Next week I will continue on this subject of the subjunctive. There is a lot to go over. I hope everyone is having a wonderful week!

A la prochaine…


Moods in Hypothetical Clauses

First off, I must apologise; I meant to post this part 2 from my Conditional Mood post last week, but I somehow thought I already did. (Oups.) Anyhow, let’s continue from where we left off from two weeks ago.

All true conditional sentences follow one of three patterns:

🔵 If … happens (present)

  • …stay at home (imperative)
  • …people always stay at home (present)
  • …we’ll stay at home (future)

French uses identical tenses to the above English example:

Si + present

S’il y a une tempête, reste chez toi! | If there is a storm, stay home!

S’il y a une tempête, les citoyens de la ville restent chez eux. | If there is a storm, the town’s citizens will stay home.

S’il y a une tempête, je resterai chez moi. | If there is a storm, I will stay home.

🔵 If … happened (simple past), X would stay at home (present conditional)

Here, French uses the imperfect, not the simple past like in English, after si.

Si + imperfect … present conditional:

S’il y avait une tempête, est-ce que vous resteriez chez vous ? | If there was/were a storm, would you stay at home?

🔵 If … had happened (pluperfect), X would have stayed at home (conditional perfect)

Si + pluperfect … conditional perfect:

Si j’étais tombé malade, je serais resté chez moi. | If I had fallen ill, I would have stayed at home.

When si is followed by two hypothetical statements, the first should be put in the indicative (present/imperfect/pluperfect), and the second should be introduced by et que + subjunctive:

Si ce parti gagne/gagnait l’élection et qu‘il tienne ses promesses…

If this party wins/won the election and keeps/kept its promises…

There are ways of expressing hypotheses without using a conditional sentence introduced by si.

🔵 In colloquial usage, to emphasize the hypothetical nature of a statement, the first clause can be introduced by quand (même) + conditional, and the second clause also in the conditional:

Quand (même) tu me le dirais, je ne le croirais pas.

Even if you told me so, I wouldn’t believe it.

🔵 In colloquial usage, the first and second clauses can be conditional, joined by que:

Vous chercheriez toute la soirée que vous ne le trouveriez pas.

If you searched all evening, you still wouldn’t find it.

I’m liking revisiting older posts for verb tenses and going a bit deeper and more advanced. What do you think? I hope everyone has a great week!

Merci à vous !


Conditional Mood

I’m jumping back a bit to further explain the Conditional at a more advanced level. There is a bit of debate on whether the conditional in French should be classed as a verb tense or a mood, and actually, the conditional verb forms can convey information about both time and the attitude of the speaker.

Present Conditional

The present conditional is formed from the future stem + imperfect endings.

Je donnerais, tu donnerais, etc.

I would/should give, you should/would give, etc.

Conditional Perfect

The conditional perfect is formed from the present conditional of the auxiliary verb (J’aurais / je serais) + past participle.

J’aurais donné. – I would have given.

Tu serais parti. – You should have left.

The main uses of the conditional are listed below.

To express a hypothesis, most commonly in the form: “If x happened, I would do… / If x had happened, I would have done…”

Si je gagnais 1.000.000 euros, je m’achèterais une nouvelle voiture.

If I won 1,000,000 Euros, I would/should buy a new car.

Si j’avais su ton adresse, je serais venu te voir.

If I had known your address, I would have come to see you.

In indirect speech or thought after si to ask/know whether something would happen/would have happened.

Il m’a demandé si je viendrais.

He asked me if/whether I would come.

Nous ne savons pas si elle aurait préférée passer l’année dernière à Nice.

We don’t know if/whether she would have preferred to spend last year in Nice.

It’s good to note that this is one of the only cases in which it is correct to use the conditional after si. An easy way to check whether an English sentence fits this category is to ask if “if” can be replaced by “whether”.

Il m’a demandé si  je changerais d’emploi.

He asked if I would change my job. / He asked whether I would change my job.

In a main clause, to imply that the information is as yet unconfirmed. This is seen mostly in the media such as newspapers and online journalism. There is also no direct equivalent form in English.

Le Président des Etats-Unis serait malade.

The President of the United States is said/rumoured to be ill.

Un avion aurait été manqué.

A plane is reported to have gone missing.

In questions, giving a tentative supposition.

La voiture n’est plus là. Ta sœur serait partie ?

The car’s gone. Might your sister have left? / Perhaps your sister has left?

Est-ce qu’ils auraient dépensé tout l’argent déjà ?

Is it possible they’ve already spent all the money?

In exclamations to convey that something is unlikely, and possibly to suggest some indignation.

Moi, je lui enverrais une invitation Facebook!

Can you imagine me sending him a Facebook [friend] request! / I’d never send him a Facebook [friend] request!

There are two cases where in English would/should may be used, but where French requires a different construction.

“Would” conveying the sense of “used to”, such as a repeated action in the past. This would actually be translated into French by the Imperfect.

When we were travelling in France, we would stay at youth hostels. (When we were travelling in France, we used to stay at youth hostels.)

Quand nous voyagions en France, nous restions dans des auberges de jeunesse.

“Should / should have” conveying the sense of “ought to / ought to have”, such as an obligation. This would be translated into French by using the Present Conditional, or the Conditional Perfect of devoir + infinitive.

I should call my mother tonight. (I ought to call my mother tonight.)

Je devrais téléphoner à ma mère ce soir.

We should have turned right at the traffic light. (We ought to have turned right at the traffic light.)

Nous aurions dû tourner à droite aux feux rouges.

Next week I will continue a bit more with the Conditional. But I will leave you with this for now.

Have a great week, everyone!

Merci à vous !


The Passive Voice

What is the passive voice? It is the manner of constructing a sentence in such a way that the receiver of the action becomes the subject, instead of the one doing the action. The passive in French is usually formed with the auxiliary verb être + past participle. This construction occurs most frequently in the passé composé (use passé composé of être + past participle) and future (use future of être + past participle).

Ces lettres ont été écrites* par mon frère.

These letters were written by my brother.

Un grand édifice sera construit ici par le gouvernement.

A tall building will be constructed here by the government.

*The past participle of verbs conjugated with the auxiliary verb être agrees in gender and number with the subject of the sentence.

The English passive voice sometimes expresses an indefinite idea, such as “it is said”, meaning “people say”; “one says” meaning, “they say”. In such cases, French does not use the passive construction, but rather the pronoun on (one) and the active form of the verb.

On dit qu’il est riche.

One says that he is rich. / It is said that he is rich.

On parle anglais ici.

One speaks English here. / English is spoken here.

Occasionally the English passive is translated by a reflexive in French:

Cela ne se fais pas.

That does not do itself. / That is not  done.

As you guy can see, I’m trying something different with the posts. I’ve eliminated the bullet points and opted for something else. Let me know which you prefer. Also, would anyone be interested in me adding pages to the menu at the top of the blog? If so, what would you like to see there?

I hope everyone is having a good week!

A la prochaine…


Voir vs. Regarder

New round of versus! This round we will be comparing two verbs that essentially both mean to see or to look, but with some obvious differences.

So what exactly is the difference between the two? It’s simple actually, voir is passive (to see), while regarder (to look at) is active.

Voir – to see, view, witness, understand

Voir quelque chose/quelqu’un + infinitive – to see, understand something/someone, to see something/someone +infinitive

  • Tu vois ce mec là-bas ? C’est notre nouveau collègue.
  • Do you see that guy over there? He’s our new colleague.
  • Nous espérons la voir quand elle viendra en France.
  • We hope to see her when she comes to France.
  • Vous devriez aller voir un médecin.
  • You should go see a doctor.
  • Christelle et moi, nous ne voyons pas les choses de la même façon.
  • Christelle and I do not see eye to eye.

Voir à ce que + subj./à + infinitive – to make sure, to see to it that

  • Il faudrait voir à respecter la limite de vitesse.
  • You should obey the speed limit.
  • Voyez à ne pas arriver en retard.
  • See to it that you are not late.

Regarder – to look at, to watch, to gaze, to observe

Regarder quelque chose/quelqu’un – to look at something/someone, look up something

  • Regardez où vous mettez les pieds.
  • Watch where you are walking.
  • Est-ce que tu as regardé le film hier soir ?
  • Did you see the movie last night?
  • Regarde son numéro dans le mobile.
  • Look up his number in your phone.
  • Cela ne nous regarde pas.
  • It is none of our business.

Regarder + infinitive – to watch + infinitive

  • Il a passé une heure à regarder tomber la neige.
  • He spent an hour watching snow fall.

Regarder à quelque chose/à + infinitive – to hesitate to + infinitive

  • Mes parents ne regardent pas à la dépense.
  • My parents spend freely.
  • Ils ne regardent pas à dépenser mille euros en une soirée.
  • They do not hesitate to spend a thousand Euros in an evening.

Regarder quelque chose/quelqu’um comme – to consider something/someone as

  • Ses collègues le regardaient comme un génie.
  • His colleagues considered him a genius.
  • On regarde généralement sa politique comme un échec.
  • His politics are generally considered to have failed.

Two similar verbs that can have very different meanings when the context has changed. I hope this clears up any confusion between these two verbs!

Have a wonderful week, everyone!

Merci à vous !