The Subjunctive: General Idea

by Stephen C. Ohlhaut
(the article is published with the permission of the author)

For those not familiar with English grammar, the word subjunctive is bound to be totally foreign. However, the subjunctive mood exists in English, too. Usually, we use it after the word that when the first clause implies some doubt or wishing. Take these examples:

Notice she were instead of she was. This verb is in the subjunctive mood. Sometimes, in day-to-day speech, some people might say "I wish that she was here." However, this is not good English. Here, he come is in the subjunctive mood as well.

In both sentences, the subjunctive is found after a clause where the following two conditions are met:

1. The preceding clause contains a phrase indicating some wishing, desiring or doubt.
2. The preceding clause ends with "that".
    (Note: Sometimes, "that" is implied and not stated.)
It must be said that the subjunctive is dying out in English. Generally speaking, we avoid the subjunctive or simply omit it even when it is required. We should use the subjunctive in if-clauses, but this use is no longer manditory. It has become common to say:

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