Thursday, November 3, 2011

Avoiding the Subjunctive in French

There are chances that you get the subjunctive wrong even in English.
Ok, then … What is wrong with the sentence that follows:
I wish I was rich.

Some of you will correct it immediately to:
I wish I were rich.

Others will aver that it doesn’t matter, as long as the meaning is clear.
I prefer to be grammatically correct!

French too has its share of Subjunctive and I have been avoiding it since it is a little more involved than its English counterpart. But if you dislike it, there are ways to avoid it.

The most quoted example is, of course, is the substitution of il faut que with il faut + infinite.
Thus, Il faut que j’achète des pommes can be easily replaced by Il faut acheter des pommes without any fear.

But, as I was trying to get my head around this, I realized that there are ways to avoid subjunctive. Though the meaning might modified a bit, you can get by.

Here’s an example …
J’ai peur qu’il soit trop tard. -- I am afraid (that) it is too late.
The sky will not fall on your head if you just say …
J’ai peur. Il est trop tard. -- I am afraid. It is too late.
Or just …
Il est trop tard. -- It is too late.
You might consider adding, C’est dommage -- It’s a pity, just to bring in that personal touch.

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