As if the present subjunctive wasn’t fun enough, there is a past subjunctive mood, as well, which makes sense. Luckily, it doesn’t really add anything new for you to learn, other than getting used to the structure.
Être and avoir conjugations
In case you need a reminder, the present subjunctive forms for être are below. You will use them in speaking or writing sentences with the past subjunctive.
|être (present subjunctive)|
|je sois||nous soyons|
|tu sois||vous soyez|
|il soit||ils soient|
|avoir (present subjunctive)|
|tu aies||vous ayez|
|il ait||ils aient|
Forming the past subjunctive
The past tense subjunctive uses the exact same rules for determining whether to use avoir or être as the past tense helping verb just as normal passé composé does. All you have to remember is to put the subjunctive conjugation of avoir or être + [past participle]. If you don’t remember which verbs use être instead of avoir, you can brush up on the list in our passé composé post.
The construction the past subjunctive is generally:
One of the subjunctive “trigger” phrases in normal present tense + que + the noun or pronoun of the subjunctive clause + its past subjunctive conjugation.
Je crains que tu aies [the subjunctive avoir conjugation] mangé [the normal past participle] beaucoup.
Il est possible qu’ils aient menti.
Nous doutons qu’elle soit [the subjunctive être conjugation] venue ici.
Je suis surpris que vous soyez partis à minuit.
Once you’ve got the past subjunctive down (as well as the present subjunctive), most teachers would consider your subjunctive skills complete. Technically, there are imparfait and plus-que-parfait forms of the subjunctive, but they are very rare, and you will likely never use them. If you do see one you should fairly quickly be able to recognize its meaning.
To continue expanding your advanced French grammar knowledge, you may want to reference the suggestions on our Advanced French page.