French Grammar: The Subjunctive after Impersonal Expressions

French Grammar: The Subjunctive after Impersonal Expressions

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French Grammar: The Subjunctive after Impersonal Expressions
la grammaire française: le subjonctif après les expressions impersonnelles

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The subjunctive is used when we are uncertain whether or not an action will take place. If we know that the action is or will be a reality, the indicative is used. The subjunctive is used to express doubt, how a person feels about an action or state of being, a wish, intent or command. It can also be used to express facts that are the opposite of reality.

The subjunctive is also used in French after Impersonal Expressions that convey necessity, possibility or impossibility, doubt, emotion, or opinion.

The majority of Impersonal Expressions begin with Il est (or C’est) + adjective. It’s important to note that Il est is used in writing and in more formal conversation. C’est is mostly used in everyday conversation.

Here is a list of Impersonal Expressions that require the subjunctive:

il est amusant que … / c’est amusant que … : it is amusing that …

il est bon que … / c’est bon que … : it is good that …

il est dommage que … / c’est dommage que … : it is a pity that … / it is too bad that …

il est douteux que … / c’est douteux que …: it is doubtful that …

il est essentiel que … / c’est essentiel que … : it is essential that …

il est étonnant que … / c’est étonnant que … : it is astonishing that … / it is amazing that …

il est gentil que … / c’est gentil que … : it is nice that … / it is kind that …

il est impératif que … / c’est impératif que … : it is imperative that …

il est important que … / c’est important que … : it is important that …

il est impossible que … / c’est impossible que … : it is impossible that …

il est improbable que … / c’est improbable que … : it is improbable that … / it is unlikely that …

il est indispensable que … / c’est indispensable que … : it is indispensable that …

il est injuste que … / c’est injuste que … : it is unfair that …

il est juste que … / c’est juste que … : it is fair that …

il est intéressant que … / c’est intéressant que … : it is interesting that …

il est ironique que … / c’est ironique que … : it is ironic that …

il est naturel que … / c’est naturel que … : it is natural that …

il est nécessaire que … / c’est nécessaire que … : it is necessary that …

il est normal que … / c’est normal que … : it is normal that …

il est peu probable que … / c’est peu probable que … : it is unlikely that … / it is not very likely that …

il est possible que … / c’est possible que … : it is possible that …

il est préférable que … / c’est préférable que … : it is preferable that …

il est rare que … / c’est rare que … : it is rare that …

il est surpenant que … / c’est surprenant que … : it is surprising that …

il est temps que … / c’est temps que … : it is time that …

il est urgent que … / c’est urgent que … : it is urgent that …

il est utile que … / c’est utile que … : it is useful that …

Other Impersonal Expressions that require the subjunctive:

il convient que … : it is fitting that … / it is proper that …

il faut que … : it is necessary that …

il se peut que … : it is possible that …

il semble que … : it seems that …

il suffit que … : it is enough that …

il vaut mieux que … : it is better that …

However … if the statement is clearly factual or conveys certainty or probability, the subjunctive is NOT used in the second clause.

Il est vrai que nous allons nous marier.
It’s true that we’re getting married.

Il est évident que nous avons classe demain.
It’s obvious that we have class tomorrow.

Il est probable qu‘il pleut au printemps.
It is likely that it will rain in the spring.

Adapt: 

Il est improbable que nous allions au centre-ville aujourd’hui.
It is unlikely that we (will) go downtown today.

Il vaut mieux que tu fasses les devoirs avant de sortir.
It is better that you (informal) do the homework before going out.

Il est douteux que je puisse vous accompagner ce soir.
It is doubtful that I will be able to accompany you all this evening.

C’est injuste que vous nous resquilliez!
It is unfair that you cut in line in front of us!

C’est surprenant qu’ils ne soient pas encore ici.
It is surprising that they (masculine) are not here yet.

C’est intéressant qu’elle dise ça.
It is interesting that she says that.

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