# Thread: SUBJUNCTIVE LOOKING FOR A FORMULA

1. ## SUBJUNCTIVE LOOKING FOR A FORMULA

I have a student (Spanish) who is an engineer and who
is driving me crazy requesting a formula employing the
subjunctive mood, as is the case in Spanish and French.
I know it is an impossible mission, all the more interesting.
If there is anyone who can put the subjunctive into a
mathematical equation, (or set in similar Prussian
disciplinary rules or guidelines, I would eternally be
grateful to you.

2. ## Re: SUBJUNCTIVE LOOKING FOR A FORMULA

Originally Posted by pablo2607
I have a student (Spanish) who is an engineer and who
is driving me crazy requesting a formula employing the
subjunctive mood, as is the case in Spanish and French.
I know it is an impossible mission, all the more interesting.
If there is anyone who can put the subjunctive into a
mathematical equation, (or set in similar Prussian
disciplinary rules or guidelines, I would eternally be
grateful to you.
If you are talking about the present subjunctive, take a look at this page. It's a good summary: ENGLISH PAGE - Subjunctive.

There's a bit more to the idea of "subjunctive" in English, and one of these days I'll get around to refining and publishing a couple original documents I have which deal with the present subjunctive as it exists in modern-day English.
_________________________________

I suggest asking your student if he thinks this sentence is correct: I want that you explain this to me. If he says it's correct, tell him it's not and ask him to correct it: I want you to explain this to me.

3. ## Re: SUBJUNCTIVE LOOKING FOR A FORMULA

Beware. Your Spanish student may be looking for something that (in British English) is very nearly defunct - preserved in a few fossils like 'Be that as it may' (Sea como sea (Sp) /quoi qu'il en soit (Fr)/ or the marvellous Pg Seja como for. On the page PROESL recommended, the first three examples are:
* I suggest that he study.
* Is it essential that we be there?
* Don recommended that you join the committee.
Very few British people would use this; when I am tempted to use a subjunctive like the first and second examples I reword it, to avoid being thought of as an old fuddy-duddy. What that page says about the use of 'should' points to the typical British usage. To use the same examples:

* I suggest that he should study. (Or just 'He should study'.)
* Is it essential that we should be there?
* Don recommended that you should join the committee.

'Aha', you say 'But that's a subjunctive. So it's alive and well even in British English, but hidden by the modal "should"! Hoist with your own petard!!!' Well, historically yes. 'Mood' and 'modal' share an etymological root. But in describing these reworked sentences there is no need to mention a grammatical form that exists in Latinate languages.

American English is much more conservative about this structure. Fashionable English people sent their sons to America to learn English.

But I'd change your 'Prussian' to 'Ptolemaic'; following that line of thought leads to unnecessary convolution.

b

4. ## Re: SUBJUNCTIVE LOOKING FOR A FORMULA

I listen to the BBC World Report on National Public Radio. I notice that the announcers sometimes use the present subjunctive and do not always use "should". The present subjunctive, a type of noun clause, is often hidden. It is really only noticeable with the verb be and the third person singular, as these verbs in their present subjunctive form differ from their form in the simple present. The rest of the present subjunctive forms for this type of present subjunctive in English are the same as the simple present verb forms. This is how the present subjunctive may largely go unnoticed. Suffice it to say, modern-day English does have a form that we recognize as having present subjunctive meaning, and which we should refer to as "present subjunctive".

I would say it's about time we started taking more notice of it. It's certainly is a topic worth giving some attention to at the high intermediate and advanced levels.

5. ## Re: SUBJUNCTIVE LOOKING FOR A FORMULA

BobK

Very few British people would use this; when I am tempted to use a subjunctive like the first and second examples I reword it, to avoid being thought of as an old fuddy-duddy.
* I suggest that he should study. (Or just 'He should study'.)
* Is it essential that we should be there?
* Don recommended that you should join the committee.
Hi Bob,

So does this mean you would never say something like this?

I suggest that we arrive early for the multi-chamber business card exchange so that we can easily get a parking space.

And do you mean to say that you would say this in its place?

I suggest that we should arrive early for the multi-chamber business card exchange so that we can easily get a parking space.

Here's another one:

Do you mean that you would not say this, "I suggest we get the sushi appetizer for four", but you would say this, "I suggest we should get the sushi appetizer for four.

Can I conclude that in British English people tend more to only avoid using the present subjunctive with the verb "be" and the third person singular?

Also, can I conclude that, possibly, you mean that you would use the "hidden present subjunctive", which would be the present subjunctive when "be" is not the verb and it's not third person singular? Or can I conclude that this is true of the vast majority of BrE speakers, and not something we can chalk up to individual preference in BrE, necessarily?

6. ## Re: SUBJUNCTIVE LOOKING FOR A FORMULA

Where the present subjunctive form is indistinguishable, you could argue that it is being used, but '...he arrive' would be very uncommon. I do agree with Bob that the present subjunctive is very rare in BrE, and mostly confined to fossil phrases and the odd rhetorical twirl.

7. ## Re: SUBJUNCTIVE LOOKING FOR A FORMULA

Originally Posted by Tdol
Where the present subjunctive form is indistinguishable, you could argue that it is being used, but '...he arrive' would be very uncommon. I do agree with Bob that the present subjunctive is very rare in BrE, and mostly confined to fossil phrases and the odd rhetorical twirl.
Okay, this leads to another question. Is it common in BrE to use "should" in a present subjunctive clause where the present subjunctive is indistinguishable from the simple present (the hidden present subjunctive)?

(Refer to my extended question to BobK)

but '...he arrive' would be very uncommon.
It's got some edge to it. It's sharp. I like it.

It's serious too.

8. ## Re: SUBJUNCTIVE LOOKING FOR A FORMULA

Originally Posted by PROESL
BobK

Hi Bob,

So does this mean you would never say something like this?

I suggest that we arrive early for the multi-chamber business card exchange so that we can easily get a parking space.

And do you mean to say that you would say this in its place?

I suggest that we should arrive early for the multi-chamber business card exchange so that we can easily get a parking space.
I use the 'that we arrive' form rarely if ever. I would use the 'that we should' version only in very formal circumstances. More often I would just say 'We should/need to/ought to...' (In other words, replace the subjunctive mood with a modal - and I've already pointed out the etymological link between those two words.)
Originally Posted by PROESL
Here's another one:

Do you mean that you would not say this, "I suggest we get the sushi appetizer for four", but you would say this, "I suggest we should get the sushi appetizer for four.
Neither. I'd say 'Let's get the sushi appetizer for four'.
Originally Posted by PROESL
Here's another one:

Can I conclude that in British English people tend more to only avoid using the present subjunctive with the verb "be" and the third person singular?

Also, can I conclude that, possibly, you mean that you would use the "hidden present subjunctive", which would be the present subjunctive when "be" is not the verb and it's not third person singular? Or can I conclude that this is true of the vast majority of BrE speakers, and not something we can chalk up to individual preference in BrE, necessarily?
In general, my view is that the subjunctive is following the dative into obscurity (in British English), but about 1000 years later. In Old English there was a dative case; the forerunner of 'for' took the dative, and case was marked with inflexions. The dative singular of 'the' was 'then', and the dative singular of 'one' was 'ones'. Something only used 'for the one' occasion was used 'for then ones'. This phrase is apparent in modern English in the fossil word 'nonce'. And our current word 'once' is itself a fossilized dative. But this doesn't mean we need the notion of 'dative' to describe current English.

Of course, the signs of the subjunctive are much more apparent. But give it another couple of hundred years and I expect it will have effectively disappeared in British English.

This has been discussed ad nauseam in this forum; search for the many contributions by MikeNY.

b

9. ## Re: SUBJUNCTIVE LOOKING FOR A FORMULA

Originally Posted by BobK
Beware. Your Spanish student may be looking for something that (in British English) is very nearly defunct - preserved in a few fossils like 'Be that as it may' (Sea como sea (Sp) /quoi qu'il en soit (Fr)/ or the marvellous Pg Seja como for. On the page PROESL recommended, the first three examples are:

Very few British people would use this; when I am tempted to use a subjunctive like the first and second examples I reword it, to avoid being thought of as an old fuddy-duddy. What that page says about the use of 'should' points to the typical British usage. To use the same examples:

* I suggest that he should study. (Or just 'He should study'.)
* Is it essential that we should be there?
* Don recommended that you should join the committee.

'Aha', you say 'But that's a subjunctive. So it's alive and well even in British English, but hidden by the modal "should"! Hoist with your own petard!!!' Well, historically yes. 'Mood' and 'modal' share an etymological root. But in describing these reworked sentences there is no need to mention a grammatical form that exists in Latinate languages.

American English is much more conservative about this structure. Fashionable English people sent their sons to America to learn English.

But I'd change your 'Prussian' to 'Ptolemaic'; following that line of thought leads to unnecessary convolution.

b
Interesting, to AmE ears the three examples cited sound natural enough to use without re-wording. PS I also love "seja como for" as an expression.

10. ## Re: SUBJUNCTIVE LOOKING FOR A FORMULA

Do you mean that you would not say this, "I suggest we get the sushi appetizer for four", but you would say this, "I suggest we should get the sushi appetizer for four.

Originally Posted by BobK
Neither. I'd say 'Let's get the sushi appetizer for four'. b

I understand clearly why you would say "Let's get the sushi appetizer for four". Just the same, based on the rest of your reply here, I take it you would say "I suggest we should get the sushi appetizer for four" rather than "I suggest we get the sushi appetizer for four" if you were given the choice.

Originally Posted by BobK
This has been discussed ad nauseam in this forum; search for the many contributions by MikeNY.

b
Thanks, anyway, but I'd rather not.

Personally, I don't feel it's necessary to retire a particular topic about anything in any place because it has received a lot of attention before. New people arrive and the same things will come up again. If I just wanted to read about the subjunctive in British English, I'd get a book or look it up elsewhere on the Internet. I like asking questions and contributing to a discussion. Forums provide a chance for International discussion - not to mention that the life of a forum is continued posting, so new posts from newbies such as Pablo are important even though a topic may have already been discussed extensively a couple years ago.

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