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    #1

    Subjunctive or no?

    I go to a party. I see Mona sitting there alone. She looks bored. Of course, I do not know whether she is enjoying herself or not enjoying herself.

    But she looks as if she is not enjoying herself. / She looks like she is not enjoying herself.

    My question: although no one would speak like this today, would it be -- in theory -- correct English to say:

    She looks as if she were not enjoying herself.

    Several experts and several non-experts have answered: No.

    I am hoping that someone here will give me a YES.


    Thank you.

  1. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Subjunctive or no?

    As someone who actually does like and use the subjunctive, I'd say no too. Only if you know that she was in fact enjoying herself and "not enjoying herself appearance" was therefore counter-factual would the subjunctive make sense.

    That Mona. What a great actress. She's been texting me all night saying what a great time she's having, but there she sits, looking for all the world as though she were not enjoying herself one bit. It's so she can make her boyfriend, who insisted she come to this party, owe her one.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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    #3

    Re: Subjunctive or no?

    I'm glad to see this question asked by a native speaker of English!

    It was this forum that taught me that it's actually incorrect to use the past subjuctive in such sentences. And I still find it odd! In Polish, we seem to assume that anything after the Polish counterpart of "as if" is counter-factual. At least our language assumes that's the case: we always use what I think is the Polish version of the past subjunctive in such sentences.

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    #4

    Re: Subjunctive or no?

    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****


    Thank you, Barb D. and Birdeen's Call, for your thoughtful replies.

    It's unanimous: I am wrong. But like Galileo, I still think that I am right.

    Consider: "He acts as if he is in love with her." If I said that, my meaning would be: From all appearances, he seems to

    genuinely love her. Of course, I do not know if he is faking or not. I am just reporting what I have observed.

    Where did I get that quote? Why, from the greatest grammarian who has ever lived: Professor George Oliver Curme.

    Published in 1931, his book gives that sentence as an example of how many native speakers were speaking back in

    the ancient days of 1931. He then says that the really "correct" form would be:

    "He acts as if he were in love with her." He explains that this is an ellipsis of "He acts as [he would act] if he were in

    love with her."

    I am hoping that someone out there is going to make my day by telling me that I am -- at least in theory -- right.

    HAVE A NICE DAY!

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