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    #1

    Why/How the subjunctive has been replaced with indicative?

    This question may have something to do with the history of English.

    If it rains tomorrow, I will stay home.

    In the if-clause here, "rains"(indicative) is used instead of the subjunctive mood present 'rain'.

    I know to say "If it rain tomorrow" is archaic and not used in Modern English any longer and I myself do not say like that, even though it is grammatically correct. (At least, "archaic" means "it was correct in old English, right?)

    I would like to know why, and/or how, the subjunctive mood was replaced with indicative.

    I think I have read in some book before:
    1, English speakers feel more comfortable to say "rainS" when the subject is "it". Saying "rain" with the subject "it" sounds awkward or against ears.
    2, If one says "if it rain" , though knowing it is grammatically correct, he may feel uneasy thinking that he would be taken illiterate or uneducated by the listener who believes that, when the subject is "it", the predicate verb MUST be "rains" because he does not know anything about the subjunctive mood. So, to avoid that embarrassment, he dares to say "rains" though it should actually be "rain" in the indicative mood. Thus, this tendency has spread all over until it has become "standard".

    In short, to say "rains" is grammatically wrong but has been accepted by most (or all) people. When the majority makes the same mistake, it will be correct.

    Do you think my understanding is correct?
    Or is there any other historical background, influence of French grammar (in French to use indicative is grammatically correct in if-clause, I hear.) or any other reason?

    Thank you in advance.

  1. 5jj's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Why/How the subjunctive has been replaced with indicative?

    Quote Originally Posted by KEN JPN View Post
    If it rains tomorrow, I will stay home.

    In the if-clause here, "rains"(indicative) is used instead of the subjunctive mood present 'rain'.

    I know to say "If it rain tomorrow" is archaic and not used in Modern English any longer
    It is not used in British English any longer. It may be used in American English. We'll have to wait for an AmE speaker to comment.
    and I myself do not say like that, even though it is grammatically correct.
    I would say that only 'if it rains' is grammatically correct in modern BrE.
    (At least, "archaic" means "it was correct in old English, right?)
    It means that it was used and is no longer used. It does not say that it was correct.
    I would like to know why, and/or how, the subjunctive mood was replaced with indicative.
    Language changes in unpredictable ways. The subjunctive has largely disappeared from modern BrE. It hasn't disappeared from AmE or some other languages. It is hard to say exactly why this should be.
    In short, to say "rains" is grammatically wrong
    It is not wrong in modern BrE.

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    #3

    Re: Why/How the subjunctive has been replaced with indicative?

    NOT A TEACHER


    Hello, Ken:

    Wow! What a scholarly post!

    Yes, you are 100% correct. The world's greatest grammarian * (IMHO) agrees with you.

    1. He says that "in plain prose we now use the indicative, since we feel the reality, the actuality, of the problem

    stronger than the idea of doubt as to the proper solution."

    a. He then cites this line from the famous British poet Tennyson: "She'll not tell me if she love me." The grammarian then

    says that in "plain prose" (the language used in everyday speech), we would use " loves."

    *****

    Finally, here is a sentence written in 1916 by an important American official. Today, his grammar would be considered "wrong":

    "I am now going down to Garden City and New York till the President send for me; or, if he do not send for me, I'm going

    to his house and sit on his front steps till he come out."


    *****

    * George Oliver Curme, A Grammar of the English Language (1931), Vol. II, pp. 407, 415.

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    #4

    Re: Why/How the subjunctive has been replaced with indicative?

    Americans might say "If it were to rain tomorrow," but not "if it rain..."

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    #5

    Re: Why/How the subjunctive has been replaced with indicative?

    Quote Originally Posted by SoothingDave View Post
    Americans might say "If it were to rain tomorrow," but not "if it rain..."
    I thought not, but it is useful to have it confirmed by a native speaker of AmE. We can also use 'If it were to rain tomorrow' in BrE.

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    #6

    Re: Why/How the subjunctive has been replaced with indicative?

    I think the equivalent phrase without the "s" is "Should it rain tomorrow, I will have to cancel my plans". To start the sentence with "If" I too would use "If it rains" or "If it were to rain".

    If it rains tomorrow, I will have to cancel my plans.
    If it were to rain tomorrow, I would have to cancel my plans.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

  4. 5jj's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: Why/How the subjunctive has been replaced with indicative?

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    I think the equivalent phrase without the "s" is "Should it rain tomorrow, I will have to cancel my plans".
    As ems knows, but others may not, 'rain' in that sentence is a bare infinitive, not a subjunctive.

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    #8

    Re: Why/How the subjunctive has been replaced with indicative?

    Thank you very much for your detailed comments with a specific source, which I really need for academic confirmation.

    In your comment, you explained the reason why the subjunctive was replaced with indicative as:

    >1. He says that "in plain prose we now use the indicative, since we feel the reality, the actuality, of the problem stronger than the idea of doubt as to the proper solution."

    If so, the fact is that English speakers purposefully started to use the indicative in if-clauses because they 'feel the reality, the actuality, of the problem stronger than the idea of doubt as to the proper solution'.

    Usually, especially in school grammar taught in Japan, the indicative present is used to express what is actually happening, what usually happens, what will surely happen in the near future, etc.

    However, in an if-clause, the statement does not 'describe' any reality, because it has not yet happened. An if-clause only remarks something which is 'imagined' with considerable possibility, for which the subjunctive PRESENT (where the predicate verb takes the infinitive form) was used; while the subjunctive PAST was, and still is, used to express something imagined with very little or no possibility, or against the reality.

    If she have some money, she will surely buy that. (archaic/ subjunctive present)
    ----grammatically correct but already archaic
    If she has some money, she will surely buy that. (modern/ substitute of the subjunctive present)
    ----this was regarded grammatically wrong but now this is widely accepted and regarded as correct
    <(background: I don't know whether she actually has any money or not, but she may possibly have some.)

    If she had some money, she would surely buy that (though actually she does not have any money).


    Then, I think I had better update my understanding about the reason why the subjunctive was replaced with indicative:

    ---It's because the usage of the indicative has been expanded.
    The indicative used to express only the actual truth or fact, which already happened, usually happens or is now happening, but lately, the indicative is being used to express an imaginary up-coming future with feeling of reality, positive possibility, too.

    I am asking this because I have been thinking of the reasons as I previously said:

    1, English speakers feel more comfortable to say "rainS" when the subject is "it". Saying "rain" with the subject "it" sounds awkward or against ears.

    2, If one says "if it rain" , though knowing it is grammatically correct, he may feel uneasy thinking that he would be taken illiterate or uneducated by the listener who believes that, when the subject is "it", the predicate verb MUST be "rains" because he does not know anything about the subjunctive mood. So, to avoid that embarrassment, he dares to say "rains" though it should actually be "rain" in the indicative mood. Thus, this tendency has spread all over until it has become "standard".


    The reasons in my message seems to be different from the quote 1 above.

    I will greatly appreciate if I can receive some additional comments.

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    #9

    Re: Why/How the subjunctive has been replaced with indicative?

    Language evolves.

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    #10

    Re: Why/How the subjunctive has been replaced with indicative?

    Quote Originally Posted by KEN JPN View Post
    In your comment, you explained the reason why the subjunctive was replaced with indicative as:

    >1. He says that "in plain prose we now use the indicative, since we feel the reality, the actuality, of the problem stronger than the idea of doubt as to the proper solution."

    If so, the fact is that English speakers purposefully started to use the indicative in if-clauses because they 'feel the reality, the actuality, of the problem stronger than the idea of doubt as to the proper solution'.
    I know of no evidence to support this idea. That is not to say that it is not true, though, personally, I don't believe it is. In my opinion, very few native speakers purposefully choose the verb form they are about to utter.
    If she have some money, she will surely buy that. (archaic/ subjunctive present)
    ----grammatically correct but already archaic
    KEN, the grammatically correct form in modern BrE is the indicative. There are a few people who still use the subjunctive, but it sounds strange to many people. I wouldn't actually call it 'incorrect', but it is less natural than the subjunctive.
    If she has some money, she will surely buy that. (modern/ substitute of the subjunctive present)
    ----this was regarded as grammatically wrong but now this is widely accepted and regarded as correct
    I doubt if many people have regarded it as grammatically wrong for sixty years or more.

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