18.2.4.1 Sequence of tenses with subjonctif in literature style

The following table shows the system of the high literary style. You will find this only in older texts of a high style. Therefore, we suggest that you have a look at it, but it is not necessary to study this more in detail.

  Overview
    tenses verb of involvement reported event is
      requires before the involv. at the same time after the involv.
présent
futur simple
futur composé
conditionel simple
passe composé*
subjonctif craindre
vouloir
exiger
redouter
souhaiter

passé composé du subjonctif
Je crains / craindrai / craindrais
qu' il soit venu
présent du
subjonctif

Je crains / craindrai / craindrais
qu' il vienne
présent du
subjonctif

Je crains / craindrai / craindrais
qu' il vienne
indicatif croire
penser
supposer
espérer

the usual rules of the past tenses apply
    imparfait
passé simple
plus-que-parfait
subjonctif craindre
vouloir
exiger
redouter
souhaiter

plus-que-parfait du subjonctif
Je craignais / J' ai craint / Je craignis
qu' il fût venu
imparfait du
subjonctif

Je craignais / J' ai
craint / Je craignis
qu' il vînt
imparfait du
subjonctif*

Je craignais / J' ai craint / Je craignis
qu' il vînt
indicatif croire
penser
supposer
espérer
plus-que-parfait
Je pensais / J'ai pensé / Je pensai
qu' il était venu
imparfait
Je pensais / J'ai pensé / Je pensai
qu' il venait
conditionnel
Je pensais / J'ai pensé / Je pensai
qu' il viendrait

As you can see the system in the subjonctif is parallel to the the system of the indicatif. Only that the indicatif-system is still active, unlike the subjonctif-system. The subjonctiv imparfait and the subjonctif imparfait is not used anymore and thus, the system for the subjonctif is not complete anymore. The spoken language forms in a more convinient and easy way as we will see in a minute.

* Please remember that the passé composé is a past tense in normal spoken French, even though it is not in most other languages. However, in literary style (as described here) it is a present tense also in French (as it is in Spanish or Italian). This can only be the case, if the passé simple is used as the corresponding past tense.






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