8.3.7.2 Sequence of tenses in phrases with subjonctif

We will come back to the topic of sequence of tenses in a later chapter, however, we feel it a good preparation to mention it already at this stage. One of the issues here is that we do not have the subjonctif imparfait, because this would be a necessary tense to describe events in their correct order. This sequence of tenses is also called: consecutio temporum. First, we start with the easiest case - the indicatif:

The event is told in the present and happened ...
  at the same time with the narrating - in the present:
Je te raconte, ce que je fais.
I tell you what I do.
  before the time of narrating - in the past and lasts on:
Je te raconte, ce que je faisais.
I tell you what I did.
  before the time of narrating - in the past and is finished::
Je te raconte, ce que j' ai fait.
I tell you what I haven done.
  after the time of narrating - in the future:
Je te raconte, ce que je ferai.
I tell you what I will do.

The event is told in the past and happened ...
    at the same time with the narrating - in the past:
  Je te racontais, ce que je faisais.
I told you what I did.
    before the time of narrating - in the past and lasts on:
  Je te racontais, ce que j' avais fait.
I told you what I had done.
    after the time with the narrating - in the future:
  Je te racontais, ce que je ferais.
I told you what I will do.

If we try to get to the essence of this, we will notice that the order of events is of importance. We have seen this in the exsamples in the indicatif. Now, when these sentences include verbs of hope, fear or sorry, then the subjonctif is involved.

In written French we would have the possibility to have the following phrases:

The event is feard in the present and happen(s/ed) ...
    at the same time of narrating - in the present:
  Je crains qu' il soit malade.
I fear he is ill.
    before the time of narrating - in the past:
  Je crains qu' il ait été malade.
I fear that he had been ill.

The event was feared in the past and happened ...
    at the same time of narrating - in the past:
  Je craignais qu' il fût malade.
I feared that he was ill.
    before the time of narrating - in the past:
  Je craignais qu' il eût été malade.
I feared that he had been ill.

As you might have noticed we have problem here, because we don't have neither the imparfait subjonctif nor the plus-que-parfait subjonctif on offer (the latter uses the subjonctif imparfait for the modal verbs).

In spoken French we use instead of the imparfait du subjonctif the présent du subjonctif and instead of the plus-que-parafait du subjonctif the passé composé du subjonctif.

The event was feared in the past and happened ...
    before the time of narrating - in the past:
  Je craignais qu' il soit malade.
I feard that he was ill.
    after the time of narrating - in the past.
  Je craignais qu' il ait été malade.
I feard that he has been ill.

In spoken French there is no difference, whether the introducing verb is in present or past tense.






contact privacy statement imprint