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God save the subjunctive !

What ?

Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary defines subjunctive as:

  1. adj. 2. in grammar, designating or of that mood of a verb used to express condition, hypothesis, contingency, possibility, etc., rather than to state an actual fact: distinguished from imperative, indicative.
  2. n. a verb in the subjunctive mood; specifically, the subjunctive mood.

Few things annoy me more than to hear, "If I was you ..." Most who actually know that there exists a verbal mood called the subjunctive agree that it appears to be vanishing in common usage. Earlier in this century, grammarians and linguists proclaimed the subjunctive's death and argued that this was no big loss, as its historical role in English had been weak and inconsistent; some even went so far as to say that in Modern English its usage is "pretentious". The fools ! The subjunctive mood is a beautiful and valuable component of the English language, and instead of dying out, it actually is enjoying a subtle revival.

The subjunctive is alive and well

I keep a list, "Examples of the subjunctive mood in English", which you are encouraged to visit. I hope that although some "experts" may dismiss the subjunctive as vanishing, my list of examples will show that the subjunctive is alive and well in Modern English and deserves its rightful and necessary place among the other verbal moods. The argument, albeit somewhat true, that English is a living, ever-changing language and that therefore the subjunctive should be allowed to die should not be furthered as an excuse for incomplete or sloven education.

For more information

Finney C E A (1999-2000). Examples of the subjunctive mood in English.

Harsh W (1968). The subjunctive in English (University, Alabama: University of Alabama Press).

James F (1986). Semantics of the English subjunctive (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, ISBN 0-7748-0255-3).

Khlebnikova I B (1976). The conjunctive mood in English (The Hague: Mouton & Company, ISBN 90-2793-404-5).

Miscellaneous. The English subjunctive: scholarly opinions.

Övergaard G (1995). The mandative subjunctive in American and British English in the 20th century (Uppsala: University of Uppsala, ISBN 91-554-3675-5).


This page is dedicated to JBG, the newest aficionado of the subjunctive.

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This page is graciously provided as a service pro bono publico by el Subjunctivador Gordo C.E.A. Finney, Alpaca-friend.

Last modified 2000-03-03