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Subjunctive vs. Imparfait

Brian E.C1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

Subjunctive vs. Imparfait

Hi, I’ve seen a couple of examples where there seems to be both an argument for the use of the Subjunctive (as the verb follows a “que”), and also an argument for the use of the Imparfait (due to the needs of the tense in the sentence).  In both of the examples below the Imparfait “wins”. What’s the right way to think about this situation? Is there really a “competition” here, and a rule for how to resolve it?


“Enfin, et je pense que ma femme serait d'accord.”


“Tu auras grossi pendant que tu vivais en Angleterre.”

Asked 3 years ago
CécileKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hi Brian,

Just to dd what others have said -

The subjunctive is a mode ( mood)  and it will always 'win' in the sense that you have to use it after certain verbs and expressions to convey certain moods and emotions.

It doesn't mean that when you have a 'que' you will automatically have a subjunctive.

Il faudrait que tu viennes You should really come ( obligation) 

Je ne pense qu'on ait le temps d'y aller = I don't think we have time to go there ( doubt)

Il m'a répété ça jusqu'à ce que je comprenne = He repeated it until I understoodjusqu'à ce que is followed by the subjunctive

Pensez-vous qu'il soit déjà arrivé ? = Do you think he may be there yet? ( doubt) 

Alan is right the difference between -

Je ne pense pas que ma femme serait d'accord 

and

Je ne pense que ma femme soit d'accord 

The first one eliminates the doubt.

Hope this helps!

Jim J.C1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Hi Brian,

It's a matter of grammatical mood  --  what is the speaker or writer wishing to convey?

Want / emotion / doubt / desire / questioning / negation (penser and croire) / general statements?

All of the above would probably require the subjunctive mood.

The imperfect is used to describe background information about a past continuous situation or habitual past actions ("we used to or would do something") typically in English where "was" or "were" would be expected to be appropriate.

Suggest that you may like to study grammatical moods to understand more clearly.

Hope this helps.

Jim

Chris W.C1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Let me mention first, that the subjunctive is not indicated in either of the two sentences. Just because you see que doesn't mean that there's a subjunctive to follow.

Je pense que ma femme serait d'accord. -- I think my wife would agree.

Serait is not subjunctive but conditional. You would use the subjunctive if the first part were negative: je ne pense pas que ma femme soit d'accord.

Jim J.C1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Taking Chris's example  "je ne pense pas que ma femme soit d'accord."

Here "doubt" is being expressed and therefore the subjunctive is required.

Jim

Alan G.C1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

You can also say "Je ne pense pas que ma femme serait d'accord."

There's a difference in meaning between "my wife agrees" and "my wife would agree". 

Jim J.C1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor
"Je ne pense pas que ma femme serait d'accord"

I have some difficulty accepting that this above text does not give a sense of "doubt" and should therefore be in the subjunctive mood.

Perhaps Cécile will comment?

Jim

 

Anne D.C1Kwiziq Q&A regular contributor

I puzzled for a while over whether "je ne pense pas que ma femme soit d’accord" is really the true negative of "je pense que ma femme serait d’accord" as implied above? Unlike when you negate a sentence with "il faut" (to "il ne faut pas"), I wonder if "je pense que ma femme ne serait pas d’accord" would preserve the conditional element? 

Subjunctive vs. Imparfait

Hi, I’ve seen a couple of examples where there seems to be both an argument for the use of the Subjunctive (as the verb follows a “que”), and also an argument for the use of the Imparfait (due to the needs of the tense in the sentence).  In both of the examples below the Imparfait “wins”. What’s the right way to think about this situation? Is there really a “competition” here, and a rule for how to resolve it?


“Enfin, et je pense que ma femme serait d'accord.”


“Tu auras grossi pendant que tu vivais en Angleterre.”

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