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Subjunctive

Doubt

When the reality described by the subordinate phrase is placed in doubt or completely rejected, the subjunctive is used.

C'est impossible que nous perdions la bataille.
It is impossible that we lose the battle.

Je ne pense pas que tu sois capable de travailler seul.
I don't think that you are able to work alone.

Nous doutons que le criminel soit vraiment fou.
We doubt that the criminal is really insane.

C'est improbable que tu réussisses à le retrouver.
It is improbable that you succeed in finding her.

Elle ne croit pas que son ami revienne la voir.
She does not believe that his/her friend will see her again.

If the reality described is considered likely to be true or to become true, the indicative is typically used. If the chances are perceived to be less than probable, then the subjunctive is used. Using the subjunctive or not can thus communicate the perceived probability of an event.

Il est possible que nous soyons en retard pour le diner.
It is possible that we will be late for the dinner.

- Je suis sûre que tu n'as pas gagné la compétition hier.
-Mais il est possible que j'ai gagné!
- I am sure that you did not win the competition yesterday.
- But it is possible that I won!

The subjunctive typically follows Il semble. However, it follows Il me semble only about 25% of the time.

Il semble que nous ayons fait une erreur.
It seems that we made an error.

The subjunctive is more 'abstract' that the indicative. When something happened is less important than that it happened. The future is expressed the same way as the present. The past on the other hand is expressed with a subjunctive passé composé.

Elle ne croit pas que vous ayez oublié votre sac au restaurant.
She doesn't believe that you forgot your bag at the restaurant.

C'est possible que la police ait perdu la trace du forcené.
It is possible that the the police lost the trail of the mad man.

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