Monthly Archives: January 2010

In the mood for a subjunctive

Originally posted on Grammar Monkeys on Jan. 9, 2010

Grammatically, the subjunctive is a verb mood, not a verb tense. Most sentences use the indicative mood; the subjunctive in English has fairly restricted uses. Often, subjunctive forms don’t look any different and mostly you’ll know which form to use because it “sounds right.” But there are a few places where people run into problems.

Here’s when to use the subjunctive:

1. In subordinate clauses for demands, suggestions and necessities. These are generally straightforward.
· The teacher suggested that Johnny pay more attention to his use of apostrophes.
· Oda Mae Brown asked that no one speak during the seance.
· It is crucial that everyone refrain from getting water near the witch.

2. In subordinate clauses for expressions of wishing, hoping, etc., where what you are wishing for probably isn’t so. This is the “Wish you were here” construction.
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· We wish they wouldn’t chew with their mouths open.
· She hoped that her brother knew better than to lick a frozen flagpole.
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