Exploring the Mysteries of the French Subjonctif Plus-Que-Parfait


Bonjour à tous! As we explore the vast and fascinating terrain of the French language, we often encounter challenging grammar concepts. Among these is the Subjonctif Plus-Que-Parfait. This grammatical construction may seem daunting, but fear not! In this blog post, we will unravel the mysteries behind the Subjonctif Plus-Que-Parfait and shed light on its usage and formation.

Understanding the Subjonctif Plus-Que-Parfait:

The Subjonctif Plus-Que-Parfait is a compound verb tense used to express hypothetical or uncertain events that occurred before another past action. It is typically used in subordinate clauses and often follows certain triggering verbs or conjunctions.

Formation of the Subjonctif Plus-Que-Parfait:

To form the Subjonctif Plus-Que-Parfait, we use the auxiliary verb “avoir” or “être” in the Subjonctif Imparfait form, followed by the past participle of the main verb. Remember to conjugate the auxiliary verb according to the subject pronoun.

Usage of the Subjonctif Plus-Que-Parfait:

The Subjonctif Plus-Que-Parfait is commonly used in reported speech, expressing doubt, desire, obligation, or necessity. It allows us to refer to a hypothetical action that happened before another past event. For example:

  • Il faut que tu aies eu fini tes devoirs avant que je rentre chez moi. (It’s necessary that you had finished your homework before I came home.)

Triggers of the Subjonctif Plus-Que-Parfait:

Certain conjunctions and verbs often trigger the use of the Subjonctif Plus-Que-Parfait. Such triggers include “avant que” (before), “pour que” (in order that), “à moins que” (unless), “douter que” (to doubt that), “espérer que” (to hope that), and many more. Pay attention to these triggers as they indicate the need for the Subjonctif Plus-Que-Parfait.

Examples to Illustrate the Subjonctif Plus-Que-Parfait:

Let’s take a look at a few examples to help solidify our understanding:

  • J’espérais qu’elle eût déjà préparé le dîner avant notre arrivée. (I hoped she had already prepared dinner before our arrival.)
  • Avant que tu fusses parti, je t’ai donné l’argent. (Before you left, I gave you the money.)

Practice, Practice, Practice!

As with any grammatical concept, practice is key to truly mastering it. Engage in exercises, read and listen to French materials, and try to incorporate the Subjonctif Plus-Que-Parfait into your conversations or writing. The more you expose yourself to this tense, the more comfortable you will become.


Voilà! We have delved into the world of the Subjonctif Plus-Que-Parfait. While it may appear complex at first, with perseverance and practice, you will conquer this challenging aspect of French grammar. So, embrace the Subjonctif Plus-Que-Parfait, and let it add depth and sophistication to your mastery of the French language. Bon courage!