Grammar Check – Subjunctive with espérer?

This was the top story on lefigaro.fr this afternoon:

Les Bleus à quitte ou double contre l’Italie

Pour éviter l’élimination, la France devra battre les Italiens, mardi soir, et espérer que la Roumanie ne fasse pas de même contre les Pays-Bas.

Years of French grammar classes have drilled into my head that you should never use the subjunctive after espérer. Can someone tell me why Figaro is doing so in this article? Is it a mistake? Or is there some exception to the rule that I’ve never heard of?

Edit: I give up, French. You win. I will never understand your grammar rules. Even though all of my grammar books tell me never to use the subjunctive after espérer unless espérer itself is negative or interrogative, the above sentence and all the native speakers that I’ve asked prove that is not the rule. The subjunctive mood and I were just never meant to be, I suppose.

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  • Myles Freborg

    Here’s a cutting from an about.com/Laura K. Lawless article…

    The following verbs and expressions do not take the subjunctive when they are used in the affirmative, because they express facts which are considered certain. When negative or interrogatory, they require the subjunctive

    c’est que, connaître (quelqu’un) qui, croire que, dire que, espérer que, être certain que, être sûr que, il est certain que, il est clair que, il est évident que. il est probable que, il est exact que, il est sûr que, il est vrai que, il me (te, lui…) semble que,il paraît que, penser que, savoir que, trouver que, vouloir dire que

  • Myles Freborg

    Here’s a cutting from an about.com/Laura K. Lawless article…

    The following verbs and expressions do not take the subjunctive when they are used in the affirmative, because they express facts which are considered certain. When negative or interrogatory, they require the subjunctive

    c’est que, connaître (quelqu’un) qui, croire que, dire que, espérer que, être certain que, être sûr que, il est certain que, il est clair que, il est évident que. il est probable que, il est exact que, il est sûr que, il est vrai que, il me (te, lui…) semble que,il paraît que, penser que, savoir que, trouver que, vouloir dire que

  • http://davidsswamp.blogspot.com/ David

    I’m not sure I understand your question.

    Do you want to put “espérer” in the subjunctive?
    There’s no reason for that.
    Espérer is infinitive because it’s complément de “devra”

    La France devra battre et la France devra espérer.

  • http://davidsswamp.blogspot.com/ David

    I’m not sure I understand your question.

    Do you want to put “espérer” in the subjunctive?
    There’s no reason for that.
    Espérer is infinitive because it’s complément de “devra”

    La France devra battre et la France devra espérer.

  • http://www.ielanguages.com Jennie Wagner

    Myles, it’s used in the affirmative, so about.com’s explanation still doesn’t help…

    David, I’m wondering why “la Roumanie ne fasse pas de même contre les Pays-Bas” is in the subjunctive. Since it follows espérer, which does not require the subjunctive, shouldn’t it be “la Roumanie ne fait pas de même contre les Pays-Bas”?

  • http://www.ielanguages.com admin

    Myles, it’s used in the affirmative, so about.com’s explanation still doesn’t help…

    David, I’m wondering why “la Roumanie ne fasse pas de même contre les Pays-Bas” is in the subjunctive. Since it follows espérer, which does not require the subjunctive, shouldn’t it be “la Roumanie ne fait pas de même contre les Pays-Bas”?

  • Emma

    I’m watching this space to find out the correct sentence. I’m baffled too.

  • Emma

    I’m watching this space to find out the correct sentence. I’m baffled too.

  • Myles Freborg

    Sorry.

    Espérer itself isn’t negative… though, perhaps, was the subjunctive used since the clause is negative??

    Out of interest, I found this line from an antiquated French grammar book:

    “N.B.: The use of espérer, followed by a past tense of the indicative, is said to be due to English influence, and, though not rare, is not accepted by grammarians. They also object to its use followed by the indicative present, which is now frequent…”

  • Myles Freborg

    Sorry.

    Espérer itself isn’t negative… though, perhaps, was the subjunctive used since the clause is negative??

    Out of interest, I found this line from an antiquated French grammar book:

    “N.B.: The use of espérer, followed by a past tense of the indicative, is said to be due to English influence, and, though not rare, is not accepted by grammarians. They also object to its use followed by the indicative present, which is now frequent…”

  • http://davidsswamp.blogspot.com/ David

    Whoops, I should have paid closer attention…

    So, the “fasse” is totally exact…
    After “espérer que” both the subjunctive and the indicative are correct.

    You can say “La France devra espérer que la Roumanie ne fera pas de même” or the phrase in the article.

    But the subjunctive is better here for two reasons.
    A stylistic one… two verbs in the future simple here just don’t sound good… hard to explain why, it’s a question of feeling really.
    A subjective one…. Obviously, France doesn’t want Romania to win, and the use of subjunctive here makes the hypothesis of Romania winning less likely… the use of future simple kinda implies Romania will win… the use of subjunctive implies that we don’t know whether Romania will win or not.

    Hope it helps.

    (and on a completely different topic, you shouldn’t read the Figaro, it’s not good for your health).

  • http://davidsswamp.blogspot.com/ David

    Whoops, I should have paid closer attention…

    So, the “fasse” is totally exact…
    After “espérer que” both the subjunctive and the indicative are correct.

    You can say “La France devra espérer que la Roumanie ne fera pas de même” or the phrase in the article.

    But the subjunctive is better here for two reasons.
    A stylistic one… two verbs in the future simple here just don’t sound good… hard to explain why, it’s a question of feeling really.
    A subjective one…. Obviously, France doesn’t want Romania to win, and the use of subjunctive here makes the hypothesis of Romania winning less likely… the use of future simple kinda implies Romania will win… the use of subjunctive implies that we don’t know whether Romania will win or not.

    Hope it helps.

    (and on a completely different topic, you shouldn’t read the Figaro, it’s not good for your health).

  • fifi

    I don’t know how but I found your blog and it’s really interesting.

    “La France devra espérer que la Roumanie ne fera pas de même” it’s not really correct.

    I agree with David it’s a question of feeling.
    For me it’s like when you want to use:
    “must”, “have to”, …
    You use the subjunctive when you IMAGINE a situation like if it was in your dream.

  • fifi

    I don’t know how but I found your blog and it’s really interesting.

    “La France devra espérer que la Roumanie ne fera pas de même” it’s not really correct.

    I agree with David it’s a question of feeling.
    For me it’s like when you want to use:
    “must”, “have to”, …
    You use the subjunctive when you IMAGINE a situation like if it was in your dream.

  • http://davidsswamp.blogspot.com/ David

    Native speakers of English can correct me if they think they need to, but I beg to disagree with you about “must” and “have to”, fifi.

    There’s a clear cut difference between the two.
    Generally, one uses “must” when the necessity of doing the thing is personal, and “have to” when it comes from an external source…

  • http://davidsswamp.blogspot.com/ David

    Native speakers of English can correct me if they think they need to, but I beg to disagree with you about “must” and “have to”, fifi.

    There’s a clear cut difference between the two.
    Generally, one uses “must” when the necessity of doing the thing is personal, and “have to” when it comes from an external source…

  • Guillaume

    Pourquoi est-ce que lire Le Figaro serait mauvais pour la santé ? Je pige pas la blague…

  • Guillaume

    Pourquoi est-ce que lire Le Figaro serait mauvais pour la santé ? Je pige pas la blague…

  • Michael

    Sorry to necropost, but I just saw this entry after googling with my own questions about using the subjunctive after “espérer que”.

    I think the descriptions here may help: http://www.cliffsnotes.com/WileyCDA/CliffsReviewTopic/Forms-of-the-Subjunctive.topicArticleId-25559,articleId-25553.html

    For penser, croire, and espérer, Cliffs Notes contends that the use of subjunctive is more a function of doubt versus surety. If TRULY believe it, then it’s true for you and there is no doubt. If you’re using the subjunctive, then you’re expressing doubt about the truthfulness of that clause.

  • Michael

    Sorry to necropost, but I just saw this entry after googling with my own questions about using the subjunctive after “espérer que”.

    I think the descriptions here may help: http://www.cliffsnotes.com/WileyCDA/CliffsReviewTopic/Forms-of-the-Subjunctive.topicArticleId-25559,articleId-25553.html

    For penser, croire, and espérer, Cliffs Notes contends that the use of subjunctive is more a function of doubt versus surety. If TRULY believe it, then it’s true for you and there is no doubt. If you’re using the subjunctive, then you’re expressing doubt about the truthfulness of that clause.

  • http://moineauenfrance.blogspot.com/ laura t.

    old post, another new reply. here’s my take: the clause which follows “espérer que” is in the negative. thus in a sense it does follow the about.com rule because you can turn it around: “et ne pas espérer que la Roumanie fasse de même contre les Pays-Bas.” ainsi, un autre moyen pour dire la même chose, n’est-ce pas?

    ~lt xoxoxooxox

    laura t.s last blog post..Beneath the Surface II: Mal au monde

  • http://moineauenfrance.blogspot.com laura t.

    old post, another new reply. here’s my take: the clause which follows “espérer que” is in the negative. thus in a sense it does follow the about.com rule because you can turn it around: “et ne pas espérer que la Roumanie fasse de même contre les Pays-Bas.” ainsi, un autre moyen pour dire la même chose, n’est-ce pas?

    ~lt xoxoxooxox

    laura t.s last blog post..Beneath the Surface II: Mal au monde

  • Liza

    My vote is that “fasse” is subjunctive because the writer is, as we would say in English, hoping against hope–he hopes Romania won’t play as well in the upcoming match against France as they did against the Netherlands, but he thinks they probably will. (Or to be exact, he’s saying that to avoid being eliminated from the competition, France will have to hope Romania doesn’t play as well as they did against the Netherlands, but that’s not likely.)

    You can use the indicative or the subjunctive after esperer, but the subjunctive means something to the effect of “I hope X, but I think X is not likely to happen.”

  • Liza

    My vote is that “fasse” is subjunctive because the writer is, as we would say in English, hoping against hope–he hopes Romania won’t play as well in the upcoming match against France as they did against the Netherlands, but he thinks they probably will. (Or to be exact, he’s saying that to avoid being eliminated from the competition, France will have to hope Romania doesn’t play as well as they did against the Netherlands, but that’s not likely.)

    You can use the indicative or the subjunctive after esperer, but the subjunctive means something to the effect of “I hope X, but I think X is not likely to happen.”

Why is Jennie no longer in France?

I created this blog in September 2006 when I moved to France from Michigan to teach English. Many of the earlier posts are about my personal life in France, dealing with culture shock, traveling in Europe and becoming fluent in French. In July 2011, I relocated to Australia to start my PhD in Applied Linguistics. Although I am no longer living in France, my research is on foreign language pedagogy and I teach French at a university so these themes appear most often on the blog. I also continue to post about traveling and being an American abroad.

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