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  1. #1
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    Smile Subjunctive Mood

    Hello! Could you tell me which is the most natural expresssion of the following three sentences, and why? It depends on American English or British English?

    1. He proposed that another meeting be held next week.
    2. He proposed that another meeting should be held next week.
    3. He proposed that another meeting was held next week.

    According to some grammer books, No1 is American English, and No2 is British English, and No3 can be used as colloquial expression. Is it true?

    I need your help.

  2. #2
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: Subjunctive Mood

    Hello SBJ

    The #1 form is now quite often heard in BrE as well as in AmE, especially in offices and official gatherings; though #2 is probably still more common.

    #3 is also heard/seen in BrE: today, for instance, I saw "it was recommended that I took..." in an email.

    MrP

  3. #3
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    Smile Re: Subjunctive Mood

    Dear MrPedantic

    Thank you very much for your kind reply. I really appreciate it. Here in Japan, I have been cramming myself with lots of grammar for a long time but it's still very difficult for me to use English at will. Unfortunately, I don't have any confidence to use English, especially in speaking, and my English doesn't reflect the TOEIC socre that I have at all. It's so frustrating! What should I do? Anyway, I will keep on studying. Thank you very much!

  4. #4
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: Subjunctive Mood

    Hello SBJ

    Your written English is certainly very good, so you clearly know the language it's just a case of allowing it to manifest itself.

    Do you come into contact with any English or American people during the course of an ordinary day?

    MrP

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Subjunctive Mood

    1. He proposed that another meeting be held next week.
    This is considered formal usage and is not so much American or British English but a question of formality - it's found in all English speaking countries.


    2. He proposed that another meeting should be held next week.
    This is certainly the most common and would be used 95% of the time.

    3. He proposed that another meeting was held next week.
    This is ungrammatical and I've never heard it spoken or seen it written - ever (past tense with future reference).

  6. #6
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: Subjunctive Mood

    "95%" is far too high an estimate for "should" usage, in the context of all native speakers. Here is some research into the use of the present subjunctive and "should" in BrE and AmE:

    Analysis of should/present subjunctive usage

    As for the past tense with future reference that isn't such a strange thing:
    1. Yes, that road does go to Brighton. But if you took this road, you'd get there a lot more quickly.
    It seems that when people use a past tense with a future reference after verbs such as "suggest", "propose", "recommend", etc., they have some such crypto-subjunctive usage in mind. Though I'd agree that it's unusual and ungainly.
    MrP

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    Default Re: Subjunctive Mood

    Yes, 95% is a little high, I only intend to emphasise the commonality of this option and the fact that 1. would mark the speaker as of a certain socio-economic status or at least perhaps flag it as formal usage in the mind of their interlocutor.

    And yes it's true that past tense and future reference is not uncommom such as with the future perfect where you have infin + past part. etc.
    However 3. is just not a possible construction, it has to be:
    3. He proposed that another meeting BE held next week.
    since you can't have 'was next week'

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Subjunctive Mood

    I have to agree with Sebaylias on this one. You can't use the simple past in this construction. It is completely ungrammatical and very uncommon. 'should be' is definitely the most common.

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    Default Re: Subjunctive Mood

    This construction isn't really in the subjunctive mood ... one could say 'if another meeting was held next week' and it would be fine. But his proposal is definite and therefore the simple past 'was' cannot be used.

  10. #10
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: Subjunctive Mood

    On the basis of my own limited experience, I'm inclined to think that the grammar books have assessed the situation correctly. AmE-speakers are more likely to use the present subjunctive in such structures; BrE-speakers are more likely to use the "should" form.

    That said, the present subjunctive is much more common in BrE than it used to be; and "should" is used in AmE too.

    As for example #3, the grammar book calls it "colloquial"; and that's my experience too, among BrE-speakers. You seldom (if ever) see it in formal writing; but it occurs in the spoken language and in emails. It seems to be formed by analogy with reported speech structures of this kind:

    1. He said that he was going to the meeting next week.
    2. I asked if he was going to tomorrow's meeting; he said yes, he was going.
    3. I explained that I wasn't going to this afternoon's meeting, and he didn't seem to mind.

    It's an easy step from "explained that it was" to "proposed that it was". I'm not sure whether it's "grammatical" or not; but it's certainly "colloquial".

    As for frequency of usage, this is what Google tells us:

    Webwide:
    "proposed that he|she|it be" - 65500 hits.
    "proposed that he|she|it should be" - 29800 hits

    US government sites:
    "proposed that he|she|it be" - 506 hits.
    "proposed that he|she|it should be" - 108 hits

    UK government sites:
    "proposed that he|she|it be" - 593 hits.
    "proposed that he|she|it should be" - 420 hits

    Webwide:
    "proposed|suggested|recommended that he|she|it be" - 551000 hits
    "proposed|suggested|recommended that he|she|it should be" - 164000 hits

    UK sites only:
    "proposed|suggested|recommended that he|she|it be" - 48000 hits
    "proposed|suggested|recommended that he|she|it should be" - 42900 hits

    (The | operator acts as "or".)

    MrP

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