Sunday, October 18, 2009

Formal Grammar: The English Subjunctive Revisited From Its Death Throes

Here are some good examples of the subjunctive in English that I have found on the Internet. Who says the subjunctive is dead?

  • It is a good idea that you be a fastidious grammar student. (active simple present subjunctive)

  • The boss desires that all employees be working while she is gone. (active present progressive subjunctive)

  • It is desirable that she have incorporated her references in her exegesis. (active present perfect subjunctive)

  • The parents demand that the child have been cleaning his room for at least an hour before going out to play. (active present perfect-progressive subjunctive)

  • If I were a wealthy man, I would not be working here. (active simple past subjunctive)

  • The teacher would not have to yell if the class were behaving. (active past progressive subjunctive)

  • If I had eaten my vegetables when I was younger, I wouldn't be so short now. (active past perfect subjunctive)

  • If the boy had been studying as he has claimed repeatedly, he would not have failed the test. (active past perfect-progressive subjunctive)

  • The prosecutor insisted that the defendant be found guilty for his crimes. (passive simple present subjunctive)

  • It is vital that alcoholic drinks be being drunk by only adults age 21 and older at the party tonight. (passive present progressive subjunctive)

  • It is essential that references have been incorporated in your exegesis. (passive present perfect subjunctive)

  • The panel asks that the final report have been being compiled by the staff. (passive present perfect-progressive subjunctive)

  • If your car were damaged in an accident, then you could sue for damages. (passive simple past subjunctive)

  • If I were being mistreated, then I would tell you. (passive past progressive subjunctive)

  • If your house had been damaged by the storm, then you could have filed an insurance claim. (passive past perfect subjunctive)

  • If the pumpkins had not been being smashed by kids, then we would have had dozens for Halloween. (passive past perfect-progressive subjunctive)

While these examples might be that of formal English, the subjunctive can occur in far less formal statements. Here are examples of some formal situations and less formal situations wherein a person can see the subjunctive:

  • How about I be the pitcher?
  • God help us.
  • Subjunctive be damned!
  • It was, as it were, a miracle.
  • Come Sunday, we'll be ready.
  • I wish you were here.
  • Be he dead or alive, bring him to me!
  • The powers that be have spoken.
  • I may be able to answer that if I be permitted to speak.
  • If it please the court, I shall take the stand.
  • I want you to do it so that it be done correctly.
  • Whether he allow it or not, we'll do it anyway.
  • I pray that we not fail.
  • I hope that you be on time for once.
  • God forbid he run for office.

Okay, these are some more examples of the subjunctive in English. As you can see, it might not be so ponderous as you might have thought it would be. Many people say it all of the time without even noticing. I figured I should bring this up again lest it be forgotten by the canaille.

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