please ....I need some help starting to teach verbs in the subjunctive...My mind is blcoked
The subjunctive is very rarely used in English, and it's more common in American English than in British English.
It is sometimes used in what grammar books call the "second conditional", which is used for hypothetical situations that are unlikely to actually occur. In fact, it's only evident when using the verb "to be", where "was" is replaced by "were". From Fiddler on the Roof:
If I were a rich man,
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum,
All day long I'd diddy diddy bum.
(It doesn't make sense, but there's the grammar.)
However, increasingly, the subjunctive is dying out here. From a hit song by Midge Ure:
If I was a soldier,
Captive arms I'd lay before her.
I prefer not to teach "the conditional" here; I prefer to do it this way:
One meaning of "will" is to make a prediction -- a fortune-teller with a crystal ball uses this verb a lot: "You will meet a tall, dark, handsome stranger..." That's a prediction. It's not a future tense, it's an ordinary sentence with a modal verb in it, nothing more.
When we talk about things that will or may happen when a certain condition is met, we often use modal verbs: this is because modal verbs talk about the possibility of something happening. So:
If you miss the bus, you will be late.
That's a prediction, and the prediction will come true if the condition is met.
If we take the verb in the "if" clause and make it past tense, and then take the modal verb in the main clause it make it past tense as well, you get the famous "second conditional" -- I just say it makes everything hypothetical, a little less certain, it most likely won't happen but let's just say it did happen:
If you missed the bus, you would be late.
Note that this works with some other modal verbs, too:
If you missed the bus, you could take a taxi.
Then, by way of an exception, I say that you will often see "were" instead of "was" in the "if" clause, this being a left-over from an ancient grammar rule that is dying out. (If the curriculum demands they use the "if I were" construction, obviously I would stress things the other way round).
The other time the subjunctive is following verbs of command or request, especially in American English. That's when I do talk about "the subjunctive", but it's fairly easy: it's really just the basic form of the verb. "He insisted she go...", "We recommend you stay..." etc.
Then I would caution that a) this is uncommon in British English (but not unknown), and b) many native writers and speakers, even professionals, get confused and sometimes use the past tense instead of the subjunctive mood.
Finally, the subjunctive is used in certain stock phrases left over from a time when the subjunctive was much more common in English: "God forbid", "Be that as it may", "Come what may", "As it were" and so on.
If you're specifically talking about using the conditional, when I'm teaching adults, I sometimes write the following on the board, telling them I am about to shock them:
I then wait for the groans to die down, then I explain that school text books sometimes make things more complicated than they really are, and then cross each word out, saying, "In fact, English doesn't have a real future tense. And English doesn't really have a First Conditional, or a Second Conditional, or a Third Conditional -- it's all about modal verbs." The various conditionals are nothing more than ordinary sentences with a modal verb.
'If I were' is alive in BrE, but the present subjunctive is very rarely used- much less so than in AE.
Riverkid, what's the situation in Canada with the present subjunctive?
riverkid, referring to your statement that you don't see how we can avoid teaching the conditional:
What I mean is, I don't teach it as "the conditional". I find that the terminology gets in the way, makes people panic and implies the whole thing is vastly more complex than it really is. It's really just a nifty way of using modal verbs in conbination with the word "if" (or, sometimes, "when").