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    #1

    subjunctive alternative

    Hello everybody,

    The point which is troublesome to me is whether the subjunctive mood is the only possible option in "that" clauses after the verbs like : "insist" , "recommend" ,"wish" , "suggest" and similar verbs. For example :

    He insists that steps be taken to meet this danger.

    He is anxious that the truth be known.

    Would it be correct "are taken" or "is known" instead of "be taken" and "be known" respectively in the sentences above, or any other tense instead of the subjunctive without a change in the meaning.


    Best regards and again thanks for your help

  1. Raymott's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: subjunctive alternative

    Quote Originally Posted by velimir View Post
    Hello everybody,

    The point which is troublesome to me is whether the subjunctive mood is the only possible option in "that" clauses after the verbs like : "insist" , "recommend" ,"wish" , "suggest" and similar verbs. For example :

    He insists that steps be taken to meet this danger.

    He is anxious that the truth be known.

    Would it be correct "are taken" or "is known" instead of "be taken" and "be known" respectively in the sentences above, or any other tense instead of the subjunctive without a change in the meaning.


    Best regards and again thanks for your help
    No, by not using the subjunctive you are changing the meaning.
    Take sentence 1. "He" is insisting that steps be taken. Let's suppose that he's the manager of a coal mine. The union bosses have been to talk with him about the dangerous mine situation because nothing is being done.
    The union reps come out and tell their members:
    "He insists that steps are taken to meet this danger".
    But they know that steps are not taken. The manager is lying.
    The problem is that manager is not insisting that steps will be taken; he is claiming that are already being taken. The unions go on strike.


    Sentence 2. He is anxious that the truth be known.
    "He" this time is a pedophile with a computer full of kiddie porn. To say:
    "He is anxious that the truth be known about his situation" means he wants help, or to be punished.
    "He is anxious that the truth is known about his situation" means he does NOT want to be caught, but he is afraid that the truth is already known - quite the opposite of the subjunctive sentence.

    Sometimes you don't need to use the subjunctive, and many people wouldn't. A father might say to his child "I insist that you're a good boy while I'm away". If the father and son both take it to mean that the father is actually insisting that he be a good boy, then there's no harm done (except that the kid will grow up using the subjunctive wrongly).
    The father could have said. "I insist that you behave yourself". or, "You better behave yourself", or "If I come home and find you've been a naughty boy ...."
    There are indicative ways of getting around it if you don't want to write a subjunctive sentence, but the solution is not to change the good subjunctive verb with the indicative verb.
    Last edited by Raymott; 10-Nov-2008 at 23:29.

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    #3

    Re: subjunctive alternative

    Hello Raymott,

    Thank you very much for putting your answer so clearly. It really helps.
    Can you tell me whether the subjunctive mood is used widely in spoken english or you prefer to find some other way to get around it and express your meaning in some other words and what is the tendency in time with using subjunctive mood ?

    Thanks a lot again

  2. Raymott's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: subjunctive alternative

    Quote Originally Posted by velimir View Post
    Hello Raymott,

    Thank you very much for putting your answer so clearly. It really helps.
    Can you tell me whether the subjunctive mood is used widely in spoken english or you prefer to find some other way to get around it and express your meaning in some other words and what is the tendency in time with using subjunctive mood ?

    Thanks a lot again
    I tend to use the subjunctive mood in cases like this, because it does make a semantic difference. But the average person not interested in language tends to avoid it.
    The first form which is disappearing is the "If I were..." rather than "If I was ..." The latter is very common. In fact there are situations where one can be made to feel a bit uppity if one says "If he were my friend ... ", instead of the much more common "If he was my friend..."

    I don't want to generalise too much, because there are regional differences, but the subjunctive is becoming less used in Australia at least.

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    #5

    Re: subjunctive alternative

    Thank you very much Raymott . Your answer really helps a lot

    Best regards

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