French Grammar: Present Subjunctive of Verbs with Two Stems

Creative Commons Image via The LEAF Project

Creative Commons Image via The LEAF Project


French Grammar: Present Subjunctive of Verbs with Two Stems

la grammaire française: les verbes avec deux radicaux au présent du subjonctif


The subjunctive is not a verb tense, but a mood. It is an alternative verb form that has to be used in certain circumstances.  “Mood” is actually a good way to think of the subjunctive, since it often expresses a particular emotional mood – sadness, happiness, anger, desire, hopefulness, uncertainty, doubt, denial, etc.

The mood (sometimes called the mode) of a verb expresses an attitude toward the verb or describes how it is used in the sentence. There are two moods in French: the indicative mood and the subjunctive mood.  The more common of the two moods is the indicative mood. The first forms of verbs learned in French are usually in the indicative mood. The indicative is used to indicate or express actions that definitely are taking place, did take place, or will take place. The subjunctive mood expresses the opposite of the indicative; it expresses what may happen.

Let’s compare the indicative and the subjunctive:

Indicative Subjunctive
Indicates or points something out Is subjective (not objective)
Is factual Not factual
Statement stands alone Statement can not stand alone
Is independent Is dependent on something

Studying the chart above can be helpful in learning the uses of the subjunctive as it compares to the indicative. The French subjunctive occurs primarily in dependent clauses. The dependent clause that contains the subjunctive usually follows a main clause that contains the indicative. The main and dependent clauses must have a different subject, and the clauses are linked by que (or qu’).

Click here to learn How to Form the Present Subjunctive of Regular Verbs.

Click here to learn How to Form the Present Subjunctive of Irregular Verbs.

A handful of verbs have two (2) different stems to form the Present Subjunctive:

the 3rd person plural (ils) stem of the Present Indicative  –>  for je, tu, il, elle, on, ils, elles
the 1st person plural (nous) stem of the Present Indicative  –>  for nous, vous

The following is a list of verbs that have two (2) different stems in the Present Subjunctive:

APERCEVOIR : to notice / to catch sight of / to glimpse

j’aperçoive, tu aperçoives, il/elle/on aperçoive, nous apercevions, vous aperceviez, ils/elles aperçoivent

APPELER : to call

j’appelle, tu appelles, il/elle/on appelle, nous appelions, vous appeliez, ils/elles appellent

ACHETER : to buy

j’achète, tu achètes, il/elle/on achète, nous achetions, vous achetiez, ils/elles achètent

BOIRE : to drink

je boive, tu boives, il/elle/on boive, nous buvions, vous buviez, ils/elles boivent

CROIRE : to believe

je croie, tu croies, il/elle/on croie, nous croyions, vous croyiez, ils/elles croient

DEVOIR : to have to / must / should

je doive, tu doives, il/elle/on doive, nous devions, vous deviez, ils/elles doivent

EMPLOYER : to use

j’emploie, tu emploies, il/elle/on emploie, nous employions, vous employiez, ils/elles emploient

ENNUYER : to bother / to annoy / to bore

j’ennuie, tu ennuies, il/elle/on ennuie, nous ennuyions, vous ennuyiez, ils/elles ennuient

ENVOYER : to send

j’envoie, tu envoies, il/elle/on envoie, nous envoyions, vous envoyiez, ils/elles envoient

JETER : to throw

je jette, tu jettes, il/elle/on jette, nous jetions, vous jetiez, ils/elles jettent

MENER : to lead

je mène, tu mènes, il/elle/on mène, nous menions, vous meniez, ils/elles mènent

MOURIR : to die

je meure, tu meures, il/elle/on meure, nous mourions, vous mouriez, ils/elles meurent

PAYER : to pay / to pay for

je paie, tu paies, il/elle/on paie, nous payions, vous payiez, ils/elles paient

PRÉFÉRER : to prefer

je préfère, tu préfères, il/elle/on préfère, nous préférions, vous préfériez, ils/elles préfèrent

PRENDRE (to take):

je prenne, tu prennes, il/elle/on prenne, nous prenions, vous preniez, ils/elles prennent

RECEVOIR : to receive

je reçoive, tu reçoives, il/elle/on reçoive, nous recevions, vous receviez, ils/elles reçoivent

RÉPÉTER : to repeat

je répète, tu répètes, il/elle/on répète, nous répétions, vous répétiez, ils/elles répètent

TENIR : to hold

je tienne, tu tiennes, il/elle/on tienne, nous tenions, vous teniez, ils/elles tiennent

VENIR : to come

je vienne, tu viennes, il/elle/on vienne, nous venions, vous veniez, ils/elles viennent

VOIR : to see

je voie, tu voies, il/elle/on voie, nous voyions, vous voyiez, ils/elles voient


Je veux que vous répétiez après moi.
I want you all to repeat after me.

Je doute qu’ils viennent.

I doubt that they are coming.

Le chef insiste que ses employés prennent une pause.

The boss insists that his employees take a break.

Il est douteux que les enfants croient toujours au Saint Nicolas.

It is doubtful that the children still believe in Santa Claus.

Il est urgent que nous payions nos factures.

It is urgent that we pay our bills.

Je ne veux pas que tu achètes cette robe-là.
I do not want you (informal) to buy that dress.

Le professeur désire que vous receviez de bonnes notes.

The professor wants you all to receive good grades.

Le médecin suggère que je boive plus d’eau.

The doctor suggests that I drink more water.