The indicative describes concrete reality- that which is happening, happened, or will happen. The subjunctive expresses a reality that isn't concrete- what someone wants to happen or what might happen, for example.

In the following sentences, the subjunctive is used in the phrases expressing what someone wants- volition.

Elle veut que nous soyons à la fête.
She wants us to be at the party.

J'aimerais que vous m'appeliez demain.
I would like for you to call me tomorrow.

In all but a few rare cases, the subjunctive will appear only in subordinate phrases. Phrases introduced by the relative pronoun que.

Nous voulons que tu réussisses.
We want you to succeed.

Just because a verb is in a subordinate phrase does not mean it must be a subjunctive. The following subordinate phrase expresses concrete reality.

C'est vrai que Frank est né sur Mars.
It's true that Frank was born on Mars.

Beyond je veux and j'aimerais, volition can be expressed by giving orders, prohibiting something, or any other way where some desire is expressed.

Son ambition est que son fils devienne president.
His/her ambition is that his/her son becomes president.

Le roi exige que vous rentriez à Versailles.
The king demands that you return to Versailles.

Every now and then you will hear sentences that consist of an apparant subordinate phrase with no main clause. These require the subjunctive.

Que le roi punisse les responsables!
May the king punish those responsible!

Que vos cheveux deviennent vert.
May your hair become green.

Sometimes, when a sentence is in the past tense, the event expressed in the subordinate phrase has definitely been realized or not realized. What counts is that it wasn’t concrete at the time of the expressed attitude.

Je voulais que tu sois là, mais tu préfères être avec Henri.
I wanted you to be there, but you prefer being with Henri.


The subjunctive is also used in subordinate phrases which express necessity or a need.

Il faut que tu saches la vérité!
You must know the truth!

Il est nécessaire que vous vous rappeliez ce qui est important dans la vie.
It is necessary that you remember what’s important in life.

Il est nécessaire que vous mangiez tous les jours.
It is necessary that you eat every day.

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