Impersonal Expressions that Require Subjunctive in French

how to use impersonal expressions in french

As you might know, the French subjunctive is used after certain expressions that contain a request, a hypothesis, or a wish. You can use this mood with impersonal expressions, it helps when you want to get your opinion or a judgment across.

What is an impersonal expression?

Impersonal expressions in French don’t have a specific subject in them.

All the expressions can begin with il est or with c’est, the only difference between them is that il est is more formal than c’est.

But when it comes to using it in speaking form, the expression that is more common to hear is c’est, while il est is generally used in writing.

To properly form these expressions, you’ll need to use the impersonal subject il, ce, or c’est (“it” in English) and the verb être followed by an adjective.

Using impersonal expressions with the subjunctive

There are two different types of constructions with impersonal expressions, they can be followed by que and a subordinate clause, or even a preposition and infinitive that follow them.

Right now, we’ll focus on the first one.

  • Construction with que:

When you’re using il est or c’est followed by que the following verb may need to be in the subjunctive present mood.

Il est probable que David le fait.

It’s likely that David does.

These can work with a lot of verbs that can help you get your point or your opinion across, and express the hypothesis you might have. Here are some examples you can use:

  • il faut que (it’s necessary) + subjonctif

Maintenant, il faut que j’aille prendre l’avion.

Right now, I have to go on a plane.

  • il est essentiel que (it’s essential that) + subjonctif

Il est essentiel que tu viennes avec moi.

It is essential that you come with me.

  • il est important que (it’s important that) + subjonctif

Je pense qu’il est important que nous établissions ce principe.

I think that it’s important that we establish a principle.

  • il est rare que (it’s rare that) + subjonctif

Il est rare que vous deviez partir de rien.

You rarely have to start from scratch.

Now you know how to get your point across with the subjunctive and an impersonal expression

As we get to the end of this lesson, we hope that all the grammar tips and examples are enough to make you feel ready to go out and put your knowledge to the test. The French subjunctive is a very vast and complex subject, but don’t worry, we’ve got all the lessons and content ready for you to keep learning with us.

Learn more about how to express certainty with the French subjunctive 

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