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Subjunctives well and truly dead in English?

(17 Posts)
MardyBra Tue 16-Dec-14 17:58:30

On another thread I mentioned it gave me a bit of a subjunctive frisson when I heard Karen Carpenter sing the line "I wish I were with you" on the radio the other day. The record was from 1970.

45 years down the line, it's really rare to hear a subjunctive now. I was just looking at this link and I think most people would laugh if people were to say "I suggest that he study." or "Is it essential that we be there?" (The second example sounds a bit West Country yokel now).

I'm not saying it's a bad thing btw. There probably wasn't that much to be gained from having this usage.

Does anyone still regularly on here use or see subjunctives in English?

What about trends in other languages?

MardyBra Tue 16-Dec-14 18:00:43

And here's a bit of Ms Carpenter to wish you cunning linguists a merry Christmas.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YR1ujXx2p-I

WandaFuca Tue 16-Dec-14 21:20:07

Although I agree that English got rather shoe-horned into the structure of Latin, many of the Latin labels are useful for indicating the flexibility and richness of the English language. It would be a pity if English in the future ended up reduced to simple tenses. I was taught all this grammar stuff 50-something years ago, but maybe the reason why I've forgotten a lot of it isn't because of a failing memory, but more that English has become simplified in recent decades.

I like subjunctives. I also like gerunds: "the living is easy" is the example given on dictionary.reference.com/browse/gerund?s=t which immediately made me think of Ella Fitzgerald's "Summertime".

BuilderMammy Tue 16-Dec-14 21:22:00

I use subjunctives, though till now I couldn't have identified them as such.

ArchangelGallic Tue 16-Dec-14 21:22:38

I use the subjunctive.

I'm also good with conditionals of all varieties despite living in an area where declining verbs is a lost art.

ouryve Tue 16-Dec-14 21:28:29

Thinking about it, yes I do.

I wish that I was... sounds terribly clumsy. I suppose that would be I wish I was... although that sounds a bit incomplete.

Showy Tue 16-Dec-14 21:35:01

I use subjunctives often and thinking about it, the dc do too. It's normal to my ear but I wonder if that's because we use them in our house. I'm not sure I've noticed a lack of subjunctives. I shall listen out for usage.

TheFirstOfHerName Tue 16-Dec-14 21:41:12

If they were, then I wouldn't be using them.

WandaFuca Tue 16-Dec-14 21:53:01

Forgot to say thanks for that link, Mardy. I failed miserably on my first attempt of the first test, but got the feeling that my few remaining grammar neurons were perking up in interest. wink

All my failures were acceptable English, but didn't reflect the mood of the subjunctive, which gave a slightly different meaning to the sentence, and one that shouldn't disappear from the language through non-use.

TheFirstOfHerName Wed 17-Dec-14 07:05:06

Just did the test: 84%

MrsHathaway Wed 17-Dec-14 07:35:11

I'm a bit of a subjunctive pedant, tbh. I agree that it's going out of fashion, which is stylistically a shame, but I doubt any subtlety of meaning is being lost in most cases.

Off to play with the link now.

EmilyAlice Wed 17-Dec-14 07:39:54

If I were you
Be that as it may
Use a subjunctive every day.
grin

MardyBra Thu 18-Dec-14 18:28:37

I only got 30% on the test. fblush To be fair I didn't learn about subjunctives at school and didn't know what they were until I learnt about them in other languages.

Middleagedmotheroftwo Thu 18-Dec-14 18:30:29

Another subjunctive user here!!!

KatherinaMinola Thu 18-Dec-14 18:33:10

I like subjunctives. And gerunds.

KatherinaMinola Thu 18-Dec-14 18:40:27

Just did the test and got 95% - all of those constructions seem very natural to me grin

Though I can't work out what the one wrong answer (to Q8) should be.

KatherinaMinola Thu 18-Dec-14 18:42:28

Ah, used the Hint function and got it.

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