Results 1 to 7 of 7
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Indonesian
      • Home Country:
      • Indonesia
      • Current Location:
      • Australia

    • Join Date: Sep 2010
    • Posts: 54
    #1

    Indicative vs Subjunctive (possibility)

    To express possibility:

    1. There is a possibility that he is the culprit.

    2. There is a possibility that he be the culprit.


    Normally I would use modal verbs in this context but for the sake of learning English, I'd like to ask, are both sentences even correct grammatically?

    Also, do modal auxiliaries have different forms for past, present and future subjunctives?

    They sound weird to me especially sentence one because the phrase "he is the culprit" is indicative.

    Thank you.
    Robert
    Last edited by RobertT; 20-Sep-2010 at 19:14.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • China

    • Join Date: Apr 2009
    • Posts: 670
    #2

    Re: Indicative vs Subjunctive (possibility)

    There are 3 ways of looking at this I think. 1) Indicatively 2) speculatively on culprit 3) speculatively on possible.

    1) 'There is a possibility that he is the culprit.' is fine. You have 'a possibility' and 'that he is the culprit' apposed, they both name the same thing.
    = It is possible that he is the culprit.
    (That he is the culprit) is possible. This simply describes the bit in brackets as possible, there is no speculation, even though the word 'possible' leads you to want to use a subjunctive form.
    Cf:
    (That he is the culprit) is certain. An adjective (certain) describes a noun phrase.

    2) (That he be/could be the culprit) is possible. The speculative part of your sentence is on whether or not he is the culprit. The use of just 'be' sounds funny nowadays.

    3) (That he is the culprit) be/could be possible (but we don't think so). Again, sounds funny nowadays with 'be', but is not wrong. In German it would be fine.

  1. konungursvia's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Canada
      • Current Location:
      • Canada

    • Join Date: Mar 2009
    • Posts: 5,158
    #3

    Re: Indicative vs Subjunctive (possibility)

    The second stopped being grammatical about 120 years ago. You can say "may be" or "might be" instead of "be".

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • China

    • Join Date: Apr 2009
    • Posts: 670
    #4

    Re: Indicative vs Subjunctive (possibility)

    Can it stop being grammatical? Or just go out of fashion?

  2. konungursvia's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • Canada
      • Current Location:
      • Canada

    • Join Date: Mar 2009
    • Posts: 5,158
    #5

    Re: Indicative vs Subjunctive (possibility)

    Grammar is normative; no one accepts it any more. It's not grammatical any more. Did you think grammar was a branch of logic? Well, it's not!

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Indonesian
      • Home Country:
      • Indonesia
      • Current Location:
      • Australia

    • Join Date: Sep 2010
    • Posts: 54
    #6

    Re: Indicative vs Subjunctive (possibility)

    Thank you everyone. Now that I am exposed to "indicative and subjunctive", it becomes easier to me to look at sentences and be able (not quite yet) to identify the "mood" of the language.

    This idea really ties everything together that I knew before (past, present, future, perfect, clauses etc) and allow me to view English as one big "unit" instead of "fragments". It also helps a lot in identifying what is formal and what's not.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • China

    • Join Date: Apr 2009
    • Posts: 670
    #7

    Re: Indicative vs Subjunctive (possibility)

    Old:
    Be he live or be he dead, I'll grind his bones to make my bread!

    New: 17 Jan 2010 ... If I be judged by these promises, and measured by their fulfillment, bring it on. This is the call, and I will answer, and be answerable. ...

    The dead forms just won't lie down! Maybe they don't care about norms! Grammar is not normative, grammar is a description of how people speak, and that changes like fashion. Grammar is a recommendation, and it is always in flux.

Similar Threads

  1. indicative was vs subjunctive were
    By Abstract Idea in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 27-Dec-2009, 17:54
  2. [Grammar] The subjunctive or the indicative?
    By ilovepsycho in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 18
    Last Post: 09-Nov-2009, 17:14
  3. Indicative or subjunctive?
    By bzdm in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 23-Jul-2009, 05:03
  4. indicative vs subjunctive
    By kiranlegend in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 14-Feb-2009, 02:42
  5. Subjunctive or Indicative?
    By Teia in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 9
    Last Post: 08-Sep-2007, 10:12

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •