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Is the subjunctive mood useful?

(7 Posts)
mercibucket Sun 27-Jan-13 20:35:49

not all that useful really altho i quite like it, but then that's because it was used as a politeness marker, so essentially it is used for showing off.

holmessweetholmes Sun 27-Jan-13 19:56:06

It's true that the subjunctive is largely invisible in English, and not much used these days anyway. However, that's the case quite often in French too (the invisible thing, I mean) with many regular verbs. As a French teacher, I find myself advising pupils to use irregular verbs deliberately so that it 'shows' the examiner that they are using the subjunctive.
However, I don't really see that the 'invisibility' of the subjunctive matters in one's own native language - you don't get points for using it grin! The fact that the majority of verbs remain the same means that most people get it right most of the time! Mind you, I have had reports sent back to me for correcting because I had used the subjunctive and the person reading it thought it was a mistake!

nickelbabe Sun 27-Jan-13 18:27:31

I understand the difference.

the first is a notice to be aware and the second seems to assume you are already aware.
it sounds like a "duh that goes without saying".
so yes, the subjunctive mood is very important.

somebloke123 Fri 25-Jan-13 14:40:23

I think it's Fowler's book "Modern English Usage" that says the subjunctive does exist in English but "keeps a very low profile".

Bunbaker Fri 25-Jan-13 14:12:28

I don't understand the subjunctive in English, but I do in French. I was never taught about the subjunctive in English. The first time I had heard of it was when I was doing French A level.

Il faut que...
Soyez sage etc

ImNotDrunkIJustCantType Fri 25-Jan-13 14:00:37

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

somebloke123 Fri 25-Jan-13 13:56:23

On one level I think the answer must be yes.

"We ask that you be aware of these issues" sounds much better than "we ask that you are aware of these issues."

My problem though is that because verbs in English don't have much variation in endings, the subjunctive is largely invisible so can't have the clout as in, for example, French.

So to take the verb "to understand"

Indicative Subjunctive
--- ---
I understand understand
He/she understands understand
We understand understand
You understand understand
They understand understand

It's only in the third person singular that there's a difference.

In this case, you can express a difference of meaning:

"If he is to win the next election it is important that David Cameron understands the hardships felt by poor people."

What this means is that DC does, in fact, understand these hardships and this will be important, will stand him in good stead, at the next election.


"If he is to win the next election it is important that he understand the hardships felt by poor people."

This suggests that he may no but that it is important that he should do.

But in anything other than the 3rd person singular there's no difference in inflexion.

I think this is actually a weakness in the otherwise wonderful English language.

Would anyone like to comment?

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