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Subjunctive relates or denotes a mood of verbs expressing what is imagined or wished or possible or making statements contrary to fact. It expresses something desired or illusory. Subjunctive sayings often begin with the word “If I were….” The feelings expressed in the subjunctive mood are generally desires, opportunities, opinions, longings, requirements or possibilities. A person intends to talk about what they wish were true by using subjunctive.
In the Literary language, verbs are used in contexts called moods. These verbal moods are:
  • Indicative - which are simple questions and statements; Jemmy pick up the book.
  • Imperative - which are commanding; Jemmy, pick up the book!
  • Subjunctive - a statement, fact, wish etc.; I request that Jemmy pick up the book.



What is Subjunctive Mood?

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A verb is in a subjunctive mood when it expresses conditions that are not factual or doubtful. Subjunctive statements are about a person’s state of mind and often occur in a dependent clause. The form of a verb in the subjunctive mood may differ from the form with the same subject which is not in the subjunctive mood. The main difference is a change in the form of a certain verb: ‘Am’ or ‘was’ is replaced by 'were', ‘be’ takes the place of ‘are’, or singular active verbs lose their -s or -es endings.

In short, Subjunctive denotes a mood of verbs that is used when the content of the clause is being supposed, doubted, questioned etc. The subjunctive mood is used in situations, in which what is stated is not inevitably real, as different to the suggestive situations.It is used to explore imaginary situations, that are tricky. 
The verbs followed by clauses to take the subjunctive are: demand, insist, ask, determine, pray, prefer, order, recommend, move, request, regret, suggest, wish and require.For example:
  • I was in your position three years ago. (Not in the subjunctive mood)
  • If I were in your position, I would do the same. (Subjunctive mood)

Verbs that attract subjunctive mood are: ask, command, insist, order, demand, recommend, wish, suggest. 

Adjectives that attract subjunctive mood are: essential, crucial, necessary, important, imperative.

Non-subjective Form
Non-subjective Example
Subjunctive Form  Subjunctive Example
 is  He is allowed.  be  It is essential that he be allowed. 
 was  I was ordered.   were
 If I were ordered, I'd go.
 present verbs in the third person singular (i.e ending s)  He cooks  remove the s  I wish that he cook.

Examples of Subjunctives

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Let’s discuss Subjunctives in detail with the following examples.
  • If I were you, then I would not do that.
  • We should act as if she were watching.
  • He wishes he had a sister.
  • I wish I knew.
  • I suggest that Jeromy arrive on Tuesdays this month.
  • If he were to bring Mary to Greece for the honeymoon, she might be upset.
  • He keeps the faith, though he face so many trials.
  • Whether it be true, we shall proceed.
  • If I were a butterfly, I would have wings.
  • We proposed that they reconsider the offer.
  • If I were to accept the position, I’d have to relocate.
  • I wish that I were able to go back and do it over again.
  • You sneezed! God bless you.
  • He wishes that Americans in the South were more formal today.

Rules for Using Subjunctives

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A Subjunctive can be used under the following circumstances such as:

1. Contrary-to-fact clauses beginning with if:
                 If I were rich, I would buy a golden toilet.

2. Contrary-to-fact clauses expressing a wish:
                 At that moment, I had the most frantic wish that he were dead.

3. Clauses after verbs such as ask, demand, insist, propose, request, and suggest:
                 I insist that she leave at once.

4. Statements of necessity:
                 It's necessary that he be in the room with you.

5. Certain fixed expressions:
                As it were, be that as it may be, far be it from me, heaven forbid, if need be,  so be it, suffice it to say

Verbs vs Subjunctive vs Expressions

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Verbs followed by the Subjunctive
  • to advise (that)
  • to ask (that)
  • to command (that)
  • to demand (that)
  • to desire (that)
  • to insist (that)
  • to propose (that)
  • to recommend (that)
  • to request (that)
  • to suggest (that)
  • to urge (that)
Expressions followed by the Subjunctive
  • It is best (that)
  • It is crucial (that)
  • It is desirable (that)
  • It is essential (that)
  • It is imperative (that)
  • It is important (that)
  • It is recommended (that)
  • It is urgent (that)
  • It is vital (that)
  • It is a good idea (that)
  • It is a bad idea (that)

Negative, Continuous and Passive Forms of Subjunctive

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The Subjunctive can be used in a negative, continuous and passive forms.
Negative Examples:
  • The boss insisted that Sam not be at the meeting.
  • I suggest that you not take the job without renegotiating the salary.
Passive Examples:
  • Jake recommended that Susan be hired immediately.
  • Christine demanded that I be allowed to take part in the meeting.
Continuous Examples:
  • It is important that you be standing there when he gets off the plane.
  • I propose that we all be waiting in Ryan's apartment when he gets home.


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Highlight the Subjunctives in the sentences below
  • It is as though he were here.
  • Let that peasant eat cake every day
  • They like all dogs, be they large or small, short or tall, ...
  • Well sir, all I can say is if I were a bell, I'd be ringing!
  • I wish he were kinder to me.
  • It is important that you try to study often.
  • It is imperative that the game begin at once.
  • Lynnelle requested Frank come to the party.
  • If only he were here, then he would speak up.
  • She wishes she were not here.
  • Do this now, lest you be harried later.
  • It is crucial that you be there before Tom arrives.
  • She suggests that Mark work full time from Saturday.
  • The doctor recommended that she should see a specialist about the problem.

Fill in the blanks below with the correct form of the verb in parentheses. Negative, passive and continuous subjunctive forms are possible.

  • John behaves _______ he were a baby.
  • Suppose your mother _______ here, what would you say?
  • I _______ I were there to have a drink with you and dish.
  • _______  to become President in 20 years, I wouldn’t put up with it.
  • The boss asks that you ______ early for your first day of work.
  • It might be desirable that you ________ the story.
  • He would let us know if he ______ planning to arrive late.
  • We want the windows _____washed before Friday.
  • Professor William suggested that Wilma _______ harder for the final exam.
  • She looks a____________going to kill him.
  • If he _________ to walk down the road, he might whistle.
  • Murder, though it _______no tongue, will speak.
  • It's important that she _______ to take her medicine twice a day.
  • Judy asked that we ______ her graduation ceremony next week.
  • The sun is scorching today. I suggest you ____ on sunblock immediately before you get a sunburn.

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