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Flashcards in Lesson 19 Deck (52)
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Translate to French:

I wanted you to do it

Je voulais que tu le fasses

Notice how the main verb is in the past, but how the subjunctive verb in the dependent clause is in the present subjunctive. This is a common (and grammatically correct) occurrence.

Translate to French:

You wanted him to come (to) see you, right?

Tu voulais qu'il vienne te voir, n'est-ce pas?

Here, the main action takes place in the past, but the present subjunctive is used in the dependent clause. This is because the action described there would have presumably occurred after the action of the main clause.


What is the past subjunctive and when is it used?

The past subjunctive is used in the same situations as the present subjunctive -- following verbs or expressions denoting doubt, demands, opinions, emotions, or elements of subjectivity.

The only difference is that it's used when the verb in the dependent clause (the subjunctive verb) describes an action that occurred before the action of the main verb.

Recall that there is no future subjunctive. The present subjunctive is used for future (subjunctive) actions.


How do you conjugate the past subjunctive?

Take the present subjunctive of the auxiliary verbs être or avoir, then add the appropriate past participle. For example, the first-person singular form of parler in the past subjunctive is j'aie parlé.

Translate to French:

I wanted you to have already done it (by then)

Je voulais que tu l'aies déjà fait

Here, the main action is in the past, so the subjunctive verb is in the past subjunctive. The action of the dependent clause (the subjunctive verb) takes place before the action of the main clause.

Translate to French:

It was important that you guys had given it to Paul

C'était important que vous l'ayez donné à Paul

Note the past subjunctive of donner. If the direct object pronoun l' represented a feminine object, the past participle would be donnée.

Translate to French:

She doubted that we had understood. She doubted that we understood

Elle doutait que nous ayons compris. Elle doutait que nous comprenions

Note the past subjunctive of comprendre in the first sentence. The second sentence, on the other hand, uses the present subjunctive.

Translate to French:

It is good that she came

Il est bon qu'elle soit venue

The past subjunctive can be used even when the main action is in the present tense. This is perfectly acceptable as long as the action of the subjunctive verb takes place before the main action.

Translate to French:

I am sorry that you didn't see Marc yesterday

Je suis désolé que tu n'aies pas vu Marc hier

Here, the main clause contains a verb in the present tense, but the subjunctive verb in the dependent clause is conjugated in the past subjunctive.

Translate to French:

It is the most beautiful city that I have seen

C'est la plus belle ville que j'aie vue

Recall that when a verb follows a superlative expression, it is typically in the subjunctive mood. Here, the past subjunctive is used. Also note how the past participle agrees with the preceding direct object.

Translate to French:

I don't (wouldn't) dare go to his birthday

Je n'ose pas aller à son anniversaire

to dare - oser. Note that si j'ose le dire means "if I dare say so" or "if I may say so."

Translate to French:

Do you guys know where the dog was found?

Savez-vous où l'on a trouvé le chien?

In formal, written French, it is common to come across l'on in place of on. Adding the l' is normally a matter of simply improving the way the resulting sentence/clause sounds. Here, l'on is used to avoid où on.

Translate to French:

Christophe cooks more than he eats

Christophe cuisine plus qu'il ne mange

In comparisons between verbs, the ne explétif is sometimes needed before the second verb, particularly after plus and moins.

Translate to French:

She doesn't dare do it

Elle n'ose le faire

In written, formal French, there are certain verbs that can be negative by taking ne without pas. This pattern is called the ne littéraire, and some of the verbs that do not need pas to be negative are: oser, pouvoir, cesser, manger, and bouger.


What is the simple past tense?

The simple past tense (or passé simple) is a literary tense used to describe past actions. It is rarely used outside of literature and formal writing. Its equivalent is the passé composé.

Depending on the ending of the verb, the simple past tense can be conjugated in a few different ways.


How do you conjugate regular -ER verbs in the simple past?

Drop the -ER ending and add the following endings: -ai, -as, -a, -âmes, -âtes, -èrent.


Conjugate parler in the passé simple.

  • je parlai
  • tu parlas
  • il/elle/on parla
  • nous parlâmes
  • vous parlâtes
  • ils/elles parlèrent

Translate to French:

I ate some zebra in Africa (*simple past*)

Je mangeai du zèbre en Afrique

Note how -ger verbs like manger keep the "e" before "a" for the sake of pronunciation.

Translate to French:

Pierre looked at his mother (*simple past*)

Pierre regarda sa mère

Remember that this has the same meaning as Pierre a regardé sa mère.

Translate to French:

Yesterday he went to Guillaume's house on foot (*simple past*)

Hier il alla chez Guillaume à pied

Note that aller is a regular verb in the simple past.

Translate to French:

(formal) Did you find the monkey? (*simple past*)

Trouvâtes-vous le singe?

Translate to French:

We listened to the radio all day (*simple past*)

Nous écoutâmes la radio toute la journée

Translate to French:

I dreamed about France last night (*simple past*)

Je rêvai de la France hier soir

Translate to French:

I threw the ball to Marie (*simple past*)

Je lançai la balle à Marie

The stem for lancer becomes lanç- for every form besides the ils/elles form, lancèrent.

Translate to French:

They looked for the lost dog (*simple past*)

Ils cherchèrent le chien perdu


How do you conjugate regular -IR and -RE verbs in the simple past?

For -IR and -RE verbs, add the following endings to the infinitive stem: -is, -is, -it, -îmes, -îtes, -irent.


Conjugate sortir in the passé simple.

  • je sortis
  • tu sortis
  • il/elle/on sortit
  • nous sortîmes
  • vous sortîtes
  • ils/elles sortirent

Translate to French:

He passed his exam (*simple past*)

Il réussit son examen

Translate to French:

They ran down the stairs because there was a fire (*simple past*)

Ils descendirent les escaliers parce qu'il y avait du feu


Translate to French:

We finished our homework (*simple past*)

Nous finîmes nos devoirs