English Grammar: The Subjunctive And The Conditionals

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The Subjunctive

Modern grammarians and semanticists dispute he existence of subjunctive in modern English, as there is no explicit form marked for this category. The formally marked subjunctive existed once but it was gradually reduced to the present and preterit forms which do not differ from the indicative form. Still the hypothetical meaning and the "wishing" meaning can be carried across by these rudimentary forms especially with the verb BE. The present subjunctive of this verb uses the BE form for all persons, and the past subjunctive uses WERE. The subjunctive is recognized for the lack of concord with the subject and for that reason some grammarians consider it a non-finite form.

The Senate has decreed that such students NOT BE exempted from college fees.

If I WERE not your best friend, you would regret this.

The PRESENT SUBJUNCTIVE expresses hope and probability for the hope becoming true.

I demand that the committee RECONCIDER its decision.

I insist that he LEAVE immediately.

I suggest that she TRY again.

The committee proposes that he BE ELECTED.

These examples represent the class of subjunctive which is called the MANDATIVE SUBJUNCITVE. It can be used with any verb in that-clause if the main clause contains verbs such as demand, require, insist, suggest, ask etc. that's to say expressions of recommendation, resolution, demand etc. The mandative subjunctive is used in American English and is characteristic of formal styles of communication. In less formal situations it can be substituted by:

1. the putative should + bare infinitive:

It is demanded that every member inform himself on these rules. = It is demanded that every member should inform himself on these rules.

2. for +to infinitive:

= It is demanded for every member to inform himself on these rules.

The PAST SUBJUNCTIVE expresses hypothetical situations, but...