English 100A

 

Subjunctive

 

 

The subjunctive mood may express the following:

present time

 

past time

an unreal condition (with the conjunctions if, unless, etc.)

 

If I were you, I would go to bed early.

If I had been you, I would have gone to bed early.

 

a wish (only after the verb wish)

I wish that I were you.

I wish that I had known that yesterday.

 

some degree of conjecture (after verbs like act, behave, talk, look) that may be followed by as if or as though

 

He acts as if he were a king.

He acts as if he had been a king once.

some degree of urgency, in noun clauses after verbs of requesting, commanding, urging, and recommending, (advise, ask, beg, command, decide, demand, desire, forbid, insist, propose, recommend, request, require, suggest, urge) and after adjectives like important, necessary, advisable, desirable, essential, imperative, mandatory, vital, urgent, and imperative.

*Only the present subjunctive (uninflected base form) is used regardless of the tense of the main verb.

 

It is necessary that he be on time.

(Negative)

It is important that he NOT eat the cake I have saved for the president.

He insisted that his wife be on time.

 

 

 

 

 

The use of the uninflected base form means there is lack of the usual concord between subject and finite verb in the 3rd person singular present. Also, there is no distinction between present and past tenses.

 

The past form is used as a subjunctive in if or as if clauses, and in that clauses after the verb wish, and represents present time:

 

If he studied harder now, he would get better grades.

She wishes she were rich instead of beautiful.

 


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