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Thread: Subjunctive

  1. #1
    sheena55ro Guest

    Default Subjunctive

    Is the Subjunctive mood more common in AE than in BE ?

    Or is this information wrong?[ I`ve read it in a grammar book]

    Thank you very much

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

    Hello Sheena

    I recently read a paper by a Japanese researcher which suggested that the use of the present subjunctive is changing in BrE.

    Thus although the general tendency in BrE is still to avoid the subjunctive after verbs such as "recommend", "suggest", etc., and replace it with "should" + infinitive, as in #1 below, you do increasingly hear a present subjunctive, as in #2:

    1. He recommended that the Portuguese midfielder should be punished severely for his compulsive diving in the penalty area.

    2. He recommended that the Portuguese midfielder be punished severely for his compulsive diving in the penalty area.

    I haven't noticed any particular increase in the use of the past subjunctive. For instance, you will often hear "was" for "were" in the 1st and 3rd persons singular in BrE when people are discussing hypothetical situations in business or politics, e.g.

    3. If he was serious about wanting the job, he would get in touch.
    4. We would all vote Liberal, if Mr Grimond was still leader.

    The past subjunctive is nonetheless still very common, especially in phrases such as "if I were you", or where a more "considered" air is required:

    5. If that were true, we would have to conclude that evolutionary biology is based on a false premise.

    I'd be interested to hear what other members think, though.

    MrP

  3. #3
    sheena55ro Guest

    Default Re: Subjunctive

    Quote Originally Posted by MrPedantic
    Hello Sheena
    I recently read a paper by a Japanese researcher which suggested that the use of the present subjunctive is changing in BrE.
    Thus although the general tendency in BrE is still to avoid the subjunctive after verbs such as "recommend", "suggest", etc., and replace it with "should" + infinitive, as in #1 below, you do increasingly hear a present subjunctive, as in #2:
    1. He recommended that the Portuguese midfielder should be punished severely for his compulsive diving in the penalty area.
    2. He recommended that the Portuguese midfielder be punished severely for his compulsive diving in the penalty area.
    I haven't noticed any particular increase in the use of the past subjunctive. For instance, you will often hear "was" for "were" in the 1st and 3rd persons singular in BrE when people are discussing hypothetical situations in business or politics, e.g.
    3. If he was serious about wanting the job, he would get in touch.
    4. We would all vote Liberal, if Mr Grimond was still leader.
    The past subjunctive is nonetheless still very common, especially in phrases such as "if I were you", or where a more "considered" air is required:
    5. If that were true, we would have to conclude that evolutionary biology is based on a false premise.
    I'd be interested to hear what other members think, though.
    MrP
    Hi ,Mr Pedantic

    I agree with you regarding the use of "should" with verbs like :recommend, suggest..etc. It sounds better to me, but I had the opportunity to meet some traditionalist[ is it correct?] English teachers[of Romanian nationality], [here in Romania], who insisted that students should know all the situations in which Subjunctive mood is used or can be used.
    As for me, I never use or used the short infinitive[ e.g.He recommended that she be here on time] in conversation. It sounds so strange.

    If possible, please correct me whenever I make mistakes.


    Thank you very much for clarifying that.

  4. #4
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Subjunctive

    Quote Originally Posted by MrPedantic

    1. He recommended that the Portuguese midfielder should be punished severely for his compulsive diving in the penalty area.
    Here, I would happily use is/was. I very rarely if ever use the present subjunctive, apart from a few saying. I do use 'if I were'

  5. #5
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: Subjunctive

    Quote Originally Posted by sheena55ro

    ...some traditionalist English teachers who insisted that students should know all the situations in which Subjunctive mood is used or can be used...
    It's important to know about the present subjunctive; but it's not necessary to use it, after "recommend", etc.

    Like tdol, I doubt very much whether I ever use one in such contexts, as it can sound a little stiff and stilted in ordinary BrE conversation. From what people have said elsewhere, however, it seems to be more available to AmE speakers.

    Have a good weekend!

    MrP

  6. #6
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Subjunctive

    MrP, would you use it in formal writing? That's about the only time when I might be tempted to use it, and then probably not.

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    Default Re: Subjunctive

    It is true that the subjunctive is used more often in American than in British English.

    I disgaree, however, that "He recommended the Portuguese midfielder is/was punished..." is acceptable even in British English. The straightforward indicative with not so much as a modal verb would indicate a fact, not a recommendation. "He asserted that the midfielder was punished..." is acceptable, but this amounts to indirect speech.

  8. #8
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: Subjunctive

    Quote Originally Posted by tdol
    MrP, would you use it in formal writing? That's about the only time when I might be tempted to use it, and then probably not.
    I find present subjunctives pop up of their own volition in letters of complaint, legal contexts, etc., especially when a stern or stiff tone is required. But otherwise, I tend to use the "should" version (or an infinitive construction, if it's possible).

    They do seem to be coming back, though. I don't know if it's because we see so much more everyday AmE now (in emails, on websites, etc.).

    MrP

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    Default Re: Subjunctive

    Quote Originally Posted by rewboss
    It is true that the subjunctive is used more often in American than in British English.

    I disgaree, however, that "He recommended the Portuguese midfielder is/was punished..." is acceptable even in British English. The straightforward indicative with not so much as a modal verb would indicate a fact, not a recommendation. "He asserted that the midfielder was punished..." is acceptable, but this amounts to indirect speech.
    I disagree. "I recommend the transgressor is punished" is perfectly acceptable in speech, and I suggest in formal writing too. "I recommend that the transgressor is punished" is of course an identical form.

    In fact, "I recommend that the transgressor be punished" is bordering on archaic to my ear. The subjunctive is increasingly a linguistic dodo in English. I believe it is because it serves no real purpose for the language, but if anyone can illustrate an example to the contrary, I am willing to be convinced.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Subjunctive

    "Are you suggesting the transgressor is locked up?" -- this translates as: "Are you trying to tell me that the transgressor is currently in prison?"

    "Are you suggesting the transgressor (should) be locked up?" -- this translates as: "Are you recommending a prison sentence as a suitable punishment?"

    The subjunctive is dying out in British English and should be replaced not with the indicative, but with the modal verb "should" following verbs of recommendation. The subjunctive is, however, alive and well in formal written American English.

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