Understanding Le Subjonctif: Exploring the Present Subjunctive and Its Role in Expressing Obligation

The French language is rich in grammar and verb conjugations, with one of its notable aspects being "le subjonctif" (the subjunctive). This grammatical mood is used to express uncertainty, doubt, obligation, and subjective opinions. In this blog post, we will delve into le subjonctif présent (present subjunctive) and its role in expressing obligation, focusing on keywords such as "le subjonctif," "obligation," "understand le subjonctif," and "il faut que."

I. Understanding Le Subjonctif

A. Definition and Purpose of the Subjunctive Mood

The subjunctive mood is a grammatical mood used to express actions or states that are subjective, uncertain, hypothetical, or doubtful. It is often introduced by certain conjunctions such as "que" (that).

The subjunctive mood allows for the expression of emotions, desires, opinions, doubts, and obligations. It adds a layer of subjectivity and subtlety to the language, enabling speakers to convey their intentions and attitudes more precisely.

B. Formation of the Subjunctive Mood

Regular Verbs: Stem + Endings

To form the subjunctive mood for regular verbs, take the third-person plural (ils/elles) form of the verb in the present indicative and replace the ending with the appropriate subjunctive ending. For example, the verb "parler" (to speak) becomes "parl-." Then, add the endings: -e, -es, -e, -ions, -iez, and -ent. Thus, "parler" in the subjunctive mood becomes: que je parle, que tu parles, qu’il/elle parle, que nous parlions, que vous parliez, qu’ils/elles parlent.

Irregular Verbs: Stem + Irregular Endings

Irregular verbs have different stem changes in the subjunctive mood. Some may have irregular stems or completely irregular conjugations. It is essential to learn the specific conjugations for irregular verbs, as they do not follow a standard pattern.

II. Le Subjonctif Présent: Expressing Obligation

A. Obligation in French

il Faut Que

The expression "il faut que" is commonly used to indicate obligation in French. There is a verb in the subjunctive mood that follows it. For example, "Il faut que tu étudies" (You must study). This construction emphasizes the necessity or obligation to perform a particular action.

Other Expressions of Obligation

Apart from "il faut que," other expressions can also indicate obligation, such as "il est nécessaire que" (it is necessary that) and "il est essentiel que" (it is essential that). These expressions highlight the importance or requirement of an action.

B. Formation of the Subjonctif Présent for Obligation

To form the present subjunctive for regular verbs, take the third-person plural (ils/elles) form of the verb in the present indicative and replace the ending with the appropriate subjunctive ending.

For example, for the verb "finir" (to finish), the third-person plural form is "ils/elles finissent" in the present indicative. Replace the ending "-issent" with the appropriate subjunctive endings: -e, -es, -e, -ions, -iez, -ent. Therefore, "finir" in the subjunctive mood becomes: que je finisse, que tu finisses, qu’il/elle finisse, que nous finissions, que vous finissiez, qu’ils/elles finissent.

C. Examples of Obligation Using Le Subjonctif Présent

Il faut que nous soyons à l'heure. (We must be on time.)

Il est nécessaire que tu finisses tes devoirs. (It is necessary that you finish your homework.)

Il est essentiel que vous fassiez attention. (It is essential that you pay attention.)

III. Using Le Subjonctif to Express Subjective Opinions

  1. Expressing Doubt or Uncertainty

The subjunctive mood is often used to express doubt, uncertainty, or subjective opinions. It appears in sentences where the main clause expresses doubt or uncertainty. 

  1. Common Expressions of Subjective Opinions

Je doute que (I doubt that)

Il est possible que (It is possible that)

Je ne crois pas que (I don't believe that)

  1. Formation of the Subjonctif Présent for Subjective Opinions

The formation of the subjunctive mood for subjective opinions follows the same pattern as for expressing obligation.

IV. Practice and Further Study

To better understand and use le subjonctif présent, it is essential to practice its formation and usage regularly. The more you expose yourself to the language, the more comfortable you will become with recognizing and using the subjunctive mood.

Platforms like Z French School offer comprehensive courses on le subjonctif and other grammatical concepts. This course includes:

  • Approximately 1 hour of on-demand video;
  • Access to the online student forum where you can ask your questions to the teacher, share your answers, and interact with other students taking the same course
  • 7 downloadable resources: transcription in Pdf format
  • Quiz after each section to test your knowledge 
  • 1-year access to the course
  • Access from any device; laptop, mobile, TV, etc.;
  • Certificate of completion 


Le subjonctif présent plays a crucial role in expressing obligation and subjective opinions in the French language. By mastering this grammatical mood, you can enhance your ability to communicate effectively in various contexts. The expressions "il faut que" and other phrases of obligation allow for nuanced and precise communication, while the subjunctive mood adds depth and subtlety to the expression of subjective opinions. The spoken language in all 7 videos is French with some English translations for comparison purposes; therefore, you will be learning a lot. Understanding and practicing the formation and usage of le subjonctif présent is key to becoming proficient in French and achieving a higher level of fluency. So, get your notebook ready! Embrace the challenge, practice regularly, and delve into the fascinating world of le subjonctif présent!