# Thread: The subjunctive or the indicative?

1. ## The subjunctive or the indicative?

If a person wanted to travel across the United States mainland in the early 1950s, s/he _____ any of the super highways, freeways, or turnpikes which cross most states nowadays.
(A) didn't find
(C) could not have found
(D) would not have been found

This is a grammar exercise. I went with 'A' because I thought it's not the subjunctive mood, but rather the indicative one. Why did I thought like that? Among the examples, there would be the forms 'would~', 'could~', etc, if it's the subjunctive mood, but there are no examples like this. However, OA was 'C', but I can't accept it. What do you think of this?

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## Re: The subjunctive or the indicative?

According to that classification of moods in English that I like, this is conditional mood, which is a subset of subjunctive mood. My answer is C.

I agree, C.

4. ## Re: The subjunctive or the indicative?

The three types of the conditional:

F Type 1: If + S. Present Future (will + bare infinitive) = A possible future condition .
- If you live, you will probably suffer from a pollution-related deficit in lung function.
F Type 2: If + S. Past would + bare infinitive = Unreal / improbable condition.
- Did you hear about that guy who won \$180 million in the lottery? If I won that much money, I would quit my job the next day. If I wanted anything, I would buy it. If I saw a beautiful Mercedes that I wanted. I would buy it.
F Type 3: If + Past Perfect would + have + past participle = Impossible condition.
-If I had known his background, I would have never employed him.
Many thanks.

(I'm a new teacher of English and I'll always remain a learner.)

5. ## Re: The subjunctive or the indicative?

I've thought of that a bit, and the above sentence seems to be the following: If + the past conditional clause, the past simple subjuctive one that expresses the hypothetical past situation.
For example, if you participated in the party, it could have been a funnier one.

P.S. If you participate in the party, it will be a funnier one. -- The present conditional clause, and the future clause.
If the above example is turned into 'the past conditional clause, and the future in past clause', that will be the following. If you participated in the party, it could have been a funnier one.

Am I wrong?
Last edited by ilovepsycho; 09-Nov-2009 at 03:11.

6. ## Re: The subjunctive or the indicative?

I prefer E: would not have found ;)

7. ## Re: The subjunctive or the indicative?

Originally Posted by konungursvia
I prefer E: would not have found ;)
Your answer E is 'would not have been found', not 'would not have found'.

8. ## Re: The subjunctive or the indicative?

No, "would not have found" -- which isn't one of your choices, but is more natural than anything listed there.

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## Re: The subjunctive or the indicative?

Originally Posted by ilovepsycho
If a person wanted to travel across the United States mainland in the early 1950s, s/he _____ any of the super highways, freeways, or turnpikes which cross most states nowadays.
(A) didn't find
(C) could not have found
(D) would not have been found

This is a grammar exercise. I went with 'A' because I thought it's not the subjunctive mood, but rather the indicative one. Why did I thought like that? Among the examples, there would be the forms 'would~', 'could~', etc, if it's the subjunctive mood, but there are no examples like this. However, OA was 'C', but I can't accept it. What do you think of this?
I agree with you: A is the best of the available choices, but I very much suspect that the questioner intended the answer to be C!

The problem with interpreting this sentence as a hypothetical conditional is that, with the main verb of the if-clause being a simple past tense-form, it could only be a second conditional, and second conditionals refer to either the present (counterfactual) or the future (improbable). They do NOT, however, refer to the past, which this sentence patently attempts to do, as indicated by the time phrase in the early 1950s. A true hypothetical (counterfactual) reference to the past is made using the past perfect (if...had Ved).

What the questioner has then inadvertently made is a past zero conditional, that is a variant form of the zero conditional set in the past, referring, in stark contrast to the counterfactual form, not to something that did not but to something that actually did occur, or at least may well have done, in a past period. The structure of a past zero conditional is

[if+PRET+PRET]

(PRET=preterite, or simple past indicative), and the meaning of 'if' here, as is characteristic of any zero conditional, is 'when(ever)', just as one could say

If water boiled four billion years ago, it boiled at only about 70 degrees centigrade.

Given the above, the only possible form that can meaningfully fill the gap in question is a form of the preterite, namely choice A!

10. ## Re: The subjunctive or the indicative?

Originally Posted by ilovepsycho
Your answer E is 'would not have been found', not 'would not have found'.
No, it isn't. You shouldn't tell a teacher what he is saying. If you think you can correct my English, what are you doing asking for help? You're the expert...

The answer you provide as an alternative, a correction of mine, doesn't even make sense in the context, as Barb indicated.

One of the things we learn with language is culture; and one of the things we learn in learning the culture of the people whose language we are studying is their concept of politeness.

My suggestion is you redouble your efforts on learning good manners; it will be of more use to you than good grammar.

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