The Subjunctive Mood
The subjunctive mood is a form of a verb used to express statements that are imagined or contrary to the fact (If I were a millionaire, I would buy my parents a house). It’s also used to convey a wish or request (I wish that my best friend were still living in the same city as me).
What Are Grammatical Moods?
To thoroughly understand the subjunctive mood, you must know what grammatical moods are.
The mood of a verb reflects the writer’s (or speaker’s) attitude and the intent of the sentence. There are three primary grammatical moods:
1. Indicative: Is the most common and states facts or opinions, and asks questions.
Who will drive the car?
2. Imperative: Gives commands and instructions.
Larry, drive the car back to the house.
3. Subjunctive: Expresses statements that are contrary to the fact or that convey a wish or request.
If I were her, I would ask Jane to drive instead.
Keep in mind that grammatical moods are entirely different from tenses.
Now, let’s take a deeper look into the subjunctive mood.
What Does “Subjunctive Mood” Mean?
A verb in the subjunctive mood helps convey imagined scenarios, hypotheticals, statements that are contrary to reality, and wishes or requests. Consider the following sentence:
We ask that he sing the song in its entirety.
Usually, the pronoun he would be paired with the third-person singular form of sing: he sings. But because this sentence is expressing a request, it makes sense to use sing.
The subjunctive mood can be found in sentences that have two (or more) verbs; the first verb is in the indicative mood and introduces the notion of a wish/request/desire/order. Once the context is in place, the verb that follows is in the subjunctive mood. Verbs like ask, request, recommend, and wish play the indicative role for a subjunctive verb.
What’s the difference between conditional and subjunctive mood?
Depending on different linguistic sources, there are other less common grammatical moods, including the conditional mood. It’s not uncommon for people to mix up the conditional mood and subjunctive mood. The conditional mood expresses conditional statements (usually called if-clauses). In other words, the occurrence of one action is conditional (or depends on) another action.
The main difference between the conditional mood and subjunctive mood is that a conditional could happen, whereas a subjunctive didn’t happen or hasn’t happened yet. Additionally, a subjunctive verb is typically followed by could/would/might as a modal verb.
Forming the Subjunctive Mood
In the present subjunctive, the base form of the verb is used regardless of the subject. This holds true even with the verb to be.
I recommend you learn common Korean phrases for your trip.
It is important that she be ready at 5:00 on the dot.
A verb using the past subjunctive mood is the same as the simple past tense (except for to be, which uses were regardless of the subject).
Kim spends money as if she had all the money in the world.
The girls look up to their older sister as if she were a princess.
The present subjunctive mostly refers to the future, while the past subjunctive usually refers to the present or past.
So Long Subjunctive Mood?
Some say that the subjunctive mood is slowly vanishing from the English language. In informal settings, it’s not unusual to see a verb in the subjunctive mood, but in the same form as other tenses. For example:
If Cam were to help me, I’d be done with the project much sooner.
If Cam was to help me, I’d be done with the project much sooner.
Both sentences express a hypothetical situation (and convey the same message), although the first one is considered more formal.
Understanding and using verbs correctly according to their mood can be challenging at first. If you need additional guidance, LanguageTool can help by correcting any misused verb. This multilingual text editor can also help rephrase your sentences to better suit your desired tone and style.