The subjunctive is a special kind
of present tense, using an infinitive that has no s in the third person
singular. It is often used when
talking about something that somebody must do.
--> I insist (that) your friend leave this house at once.
The subjunctive is a formal
construction.It is more commonly
used in American English than in British English, and more often in the written
form than in the spoken form. It
was used much more frequently in old English, but many of these forms have now
disappeared in modern English.
It is often used with a
that-clause, especially in American English, to formally express the idea that
something is important or essential.
--> I demand that he leave at
Verbs used with the Subjunctive
Other verbs that are commonly used
with the subjunctive are: advise, ask, beg, decide, decree, desire, dictate,
insist, intend, move, order, petition, propose, recommend, request, require,
resolve, suggest, and urge.
--> Tom suggested that his friends stay over for the night.
--> Sam proposes that Tom telephone his accountant.
--> She recommended that he go and see a doctor.
--> The manager requested that everyone put their requests in writing.
Be has special subjunctive
forms: I be, you be, she be, they be,
--> It is vital that you be truthful about what happened.
--> He suggested that she be more vocal in the next meeting.
Adjectives used with the Subjunctive
Some adjectives can be followed by
a subjunctive verb, like anxious, determined, eager .
--> He was determined that they not separate.
--> The political campaign is eager that their candidate step out of the
--> I am anxious that he discuss this with me soon.
Certain adjectives can also be
used with the subjunctive and `It`, like advisable, critical, desirable, essential, fitting,
imperative, important, necessary, vital.
--> It is imperative that you get home before dark.
--> It is important that everyone follow the rules.
--> It is necessary that everyone be calm in times of danger.
--> It is essential that you arrive before 5pm.
--> It is critical that the prime minister address those sensitive issues.
Nouns used with the Subjunctive
There are also nouns that can be
followed by a subjunctive verb, like advice, condition, demand, directive,
intention, order, proposal, recommendation, request, suggestion,
--> My advice is that the company invest in new equipment.
--> She is free to leave, on condition that she commit no further
--> His deep wish is that his daughter go to university.
Less Formal Usage
There are several alternatives to
the very formal standard subjunctive:
construction is more common than the subjunctive in British
--> Tom suggested that his friends should stay overnight.
--> She recommended that he should go and see his doctor.
construction is also used sometimes in British English, but is rare in American
--> She has demanded that the
machinery undergoes vigorous tests to ensure high quality.
--> It is imperative that more
decisions are made by the shareholders.
--> It is essential for everyone to
be informed of the new regulations.
colloquial English, it is possible to not make a tense change:
--> She demanded that he left.
--> She felt that it was necessary that she wrote a thank you letter to
Fixed Expressions using the Subjunctive
|... as it were
||(in a way, so to
|Come what may
|Far be it from me
||(To appear less
hostile when disagreeing)|
|God bless you.
|God save the Queen!
|Heaven help us!
|| (An exclamation of
In hypothetical sentences,
were is usually used instead of was:
--> If I were you, Id learn how to drive.
--> I wish it were Friday.
It is important to note that
was can also be used (although still considered incorrect by some
grammarians), and is, in fact, more common in informal English.
--> Sometimes I wish I was/were taller.