Formation of the French subjunctive (ct'd)
On the previous page, we looked at how to
form the subjunctive for the majority of French verbs. In general, the subjunctive is
based on the third person plural of the present tense or (for the nous
and vous forms) identical to the imperfect tense.
Depending on one's analysis, there are around 10 French verbs (plus their compounds) that
have "irregular" subjunctive forms. By "irregular" we mean either that the nous
and vous forms aren't identical to the imperfect, or that the
subjunctive forms of the other persons are not formed by replacing the -ent
of the 3rd person plural present tense form with -e, -es,
-e, -ent. (Or possibly both rules could be violated, such as
in the case of être.)
Before listing the French verbs with irregular subjunctive forms, it is worth noting
that even these irregular subjunctive forms still follow certain patterns of other French verbs:
- The nous and vous forms vary only in whether they
have the -ons or -ez ending;
- The other forms (je, tu etc) always sound identical to one another;
- The tu form always ends in -s in the spelling, and the
ils form always ends in -ent (just as for any verb and any
tense in the language).
Here, then, are the verbs with irregular subjunctive forms. Note that compounds of these
verbs function similarly, so that refaire has (je) refasse etc.
A few other difficulties
And that's more or less it... Just a few slight complications to note:
- The verb pleuvoir has subjunctive form il pleuve.
Arguably, there's nothing irregular about that: although not in common use, the plural
present tense form (ils) pleuvent is very occasionally found in a figurative
- Prescriptively at least, the verb voir has subjunctive forms
(je) voie etc as expected following the 3rd person plural form (ils) voient. However, in informal speech, a number of speakers use the form
(je) voye etc (i.e. pronounced [vwaj]).
- The verb s'asseoir, which has both forms ils s'assoient
and ils s'asseyent thus has subjunctive forms (je) m'assoie
or (je) m'asseye. In both indicative and subjunctive, the form
with oi appears to be more common.
- The verb prévaloir prescriptively has the subjunctive
form (il) prévale. But it's extremely rare in any case.
- Up until around the mid 19th century, the written forms soyions
and soyiez are commonly found.
- The form sachez que... is used to mean "I want you to know that...",
"you should know that...".
- The form veuillez is used with an infinitive as a way of making
a request: veuillez me faire savoir... = kindly let me know....
This page written by Neil Coffey. Copyright © Javamex UK 2017. All rights reserved.