What Is the Subjunctive Mood?

by | Oct 12, 2017 | GrammarSpot | 0 comments

What Is the Subjunctive Mood?

by | Oct 12, 2017 | GrammarSpot | 0 comments

If I were a morning person, I would be able to get in an exercise routine before my kids get up and go to school. (I suppose you could say I am partially a morning person, but I just have a bad habit of procrastinating.) I am expressing this wish to rise early in a sentence form known as the subjunctive mood, which is often misunderstood.

How Does Mood Shape Language?

Mood in the English language helps to determine the type of verb that is used in a sentence. The mood of a sentence tells you if the sentence is a command, a question or a wish. There are three main moods in grammar:

  • Indicative – a statement of fact or a question
  • Imperative – a command or request
  • Subjunctive – a wish or suggestion

How To Create the Subjunctive Mood

Subjunctive verbs are used with the subjunctive mood, which is used when you express something that is a wish or a suggestion that is not necessarily a reality. Creating the subjunctive mood is a simple matter:

  1. “Is” becomes “be”

They recommended he be allowed on the team.

  1. “Was” becomes “were”

If I were a millionaire, I would travel the world.

  1. Third-person present verbs lose the “s”

It is essential that Jane work this weekend.

By themselves, “he be allowed,” “I were a millionaire” and “Jane work this weekend” are not grammatically correct. It is only in the subjunctive mood that the sentences undergo these changes to express a wish, suggestion or condition different from fact.

The Difficulty in Identifying Subjunctive Verbs

It is sometimes difficult to identify the subjunctive verb from other verb forms:

  • You were here yesterday.
  • I wish you were here yesterday.

Both sentences use the verb “were” but have different meanings. The first sentence is a statement of fact indicating that you were here yesterday. The second sentence expresses a desire that you were here yesterday, implying that you weren’t.

Common Verbs That Often Require the Subjunctive

There are many verbs that tend to attract a subjunctive construction. Here are the most common:

Advise Propose
Ask Recommend
Command Request
Demand Suggest
Desire Urge
Insist Wish

Examples:

  • ask that you please refrain from spitting those peanut shells on my grass.
  • Laura insisted that Amber visit her in Utah.

The subjunctive is also used after certain phrases that follow this structure: “it is _____ that.” If you fill in the blank with one of the following terms, you need to use a subjunctive verb:

A bad idea Essential
A good idea Important
Best Vital
Crucial Urgent

Examples:

  • It is important that you be on time for the wedding.
  • It is essential that Dawn wash her feet before stomping the grapes.

Subjunctive Is Not Necessarily Subjective

Mastering the subjunctive mood is important if you’re serious about becoming a professional writer. Luckily, constructing a sentence using subjunctive verbs is fairly straightforward when you follow these guidelines.

What are your useful tips for determining if a verb should be used in the subjunctive form? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Britainy Sorenson

Britainy Sorenson has been freelance writing since 2011 in between time spent with her best friend and husband and caring for three active and amazing little boys. She earned a BA in Japanese, an MA in Second Language Acquisition & Teaching, and a Graduate Certificate in TESOL from BYU. When her fingers aren't flying at the keys, she enjoys reading, video games, drawing and learning new crafts.

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