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Old 15.01.2015, 12:40
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French Subjunctive

I am going crazy with this.

I have looked up quite a few sources, include about.com (seems like a ubiquitous resource) and did a search on EF, but I cannot for the life of me understand the subjunctive mood (le mode subjonctif).

Now what seems to be common is that (a) it always seems to follow que (or be used in a clause which is preceded by que), and (b) it is used to express:
  1. Wish, will or want
  2. Emotion or sentiment
  3. Doubt or possibility
  4. Recommendation
  5. Necessity
  6. Judgement
...and if we are really honest with ourselves, these kinds of things manifest themselves in real life a lot of the time.

The main problem I have is that, at least instinctively, the subjunctive doesn't offer a great deal of explicit or implicit semantic difference in a given sentence compared to using the indicative. For example:

Il faut que nous partons maintenant (indicatif)
Il faut que nous partions maintenant (subjonctif)
We must leave now (literally, it is necessary that we leave now).

Another example:

Il n'y a rien que nous pouvons faire. (indicatif)
Il n'y a rien que nous puissions faire. (subjonctif)
There is nothing (that) we can do.

According to about.com, there are many sentence patterns that lend themselves to the use of the subjunctive, and as I said that actually covers a lot of everyday life let alone in a more serious environment (e.g. giving an opinion, instructing someone, lecturing on a point or activity, giving orders, etc.). This concerns me because I am only mainly comfortable so far with the indicative and the conditional (the latter to a smaller degree, since I seem to get away with not having to use it so often).

I do find myself often using il faut que (or <quelqu'un> devoir <verbe>) so I'm thinking those must use the subjunctive, but I am using the indicative.

So what is the go?
  1. If I use the indicative instead of the subjunctive, is it (i) grammatically incorrect and won't be understood, (ii) gives the wrong meaning / intention, or (iii) not correct strictly but can get away with it?
  2. What if it were the other way around, viz. subjunctive in place of indicative?
  3. Would there be situations where using indicative instead of subjunctive be perceived as being rude, direct / assertive or otherwise impolite?
  4. Is there any use of the subjunctive apart from in que clauses?
  5. Is the subjunctive used less in real life compared to the degree which I appear to be freaking out about?
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