Sabtu, 11 Juni 2011


Use of the Subjunctive

We use subjunctives mainly when talking about events that are not certain to happen. For example, we use the subjunctive when talking about events that somebody:
  • wants to happen
  • hopes will happen
  • imagines happening
Look at these examples:
  • The President requests that you be present at the meeting.
  • It is vital that you be present at the meeting.
  • If you were at the meeting, the President would be happy.
The subjunctive is typically used after two structures:
  • the verbs: ask, command, demand, insist, propose, recommend, request, suggest + that
  • the expressions: it is desirable, essential, important, necessary, vital + that
Here are some examples with the subjunctive:
  • The manager insists that the car park be locked at night.
  • The board of directors recommended that he join the company.
  • It is essential that we vote as soon as possible.
  • It was necessary that every student submit his essay by the weekend.
Notice that in these structures the subjunctive is always the same. It does not matter whether the sentence is past or present. Look at these examples:
  • Present: The President requests that they stop the occupation.
  • Past: The President requested that they stop the occupation.
  • Present: It is essential that she be present.
  • Past: It was essential that she be present.
The use of the subjunctive as above is more common in American English than in English, where should + infinitive is often used:
  • The manager insists that the car park should be locked at night.
  • It was essential that we should vote as soon as possible.
We usually use the subjunctive were instead of "was" after if (and other words with similar meaning). Look at these sentences:
  • If I were you, I would ask her.
  • Suppose she were here. What would you say?

Why do we say "I were", "he were"?

We sometimes hear things like "if I were you, I would go" or "if he were here, he would tell you". Normally, the past tense of the verb "to be" is: I was, he was. But the if I were you structure does not use the past simple tense of the verb "to be". It uses the past subjunctive of the verb "to be". In the following examples, you can see that we often use the subjunctive form were instead of "was" after:
  • if
  • as if
  • wish
  • suppose

(The were form is correct at all times.)

(The was form is possible in informal, familiar conversation.)
If I were younger, I would go.If I was younger, I would go.
If he weren't so mean, he would buy one for me.If he wasn't so mean, he would buy one for me.
I wish I weren't so slow!I wish I wasn't so slow!
I wish it were longer.I wish it was longer.
It's not as if I were ugly.It's not as if I was ugly.
She acts as if she were Queen.She acts as if she was Queen.
If I were you, I should tell her.Note: We do not normally say "if I was you", even in familiar conversation.
Some fixed expressions use the subjunctive. Here are some examples:
  • Long live the King!
  • God bless America!
  • Heaven forbid!
  • Be that as it may, he still wants to see her.
  • Come what may, I will never forget you.
  • We are all citizens of the world, as it were.
 Subjunctive dengan Wish
Sebagai subjunctive, kata wish ini dapat digunakan untuk menyatakan suatu keinginan atau harapan yang tidak terpenuhi.
S + wish + that* + past tense
S + wish + that* + past perfect tense
* that dapat dihilangkan.
I wish I had a lot of money.
(Real fact : I don’t have much money.)
I wish he could help you.
(Real fact : He can’t help you.)
He wished he had told me the truth.
(Real fact : He didn’t tell me the truth.)
Sasongko wished he hadn’t met any obstacles.
(Real fact : He met some obstacles.)

Subjunctive Verbs

Subjunctive Verbs

A subjunctive verb is used to express -

(1) conditional tenses, most of which involves would and were.

(2) wishes and demands, the construction of which follows two strict rules
(a) that always comes right after the verb, and
(b) the second verb is always in the infinitive form and should is always omitted.

The second use of a subjunctive construction

1). The following verbs are used --- with such a construction to express importance (in such moods only).
Also remember that such verbs have other forms of usage (followed by to infinitive, for example) when used in other moods.

suggest .


The Indian government demanded that the UK pay compensations for damages of the Indian embassy.

2. Nouns derived from subjunctive verbs above are also used with the construction.



The UK is considering the proposal that it pay compensations for damages of the Indian embassy.

3. The adjectives below are also used to express subjunctive moods -



It is essential that the UK pay compensation for the Indian government for the damages of the Indian embassy.

How to apply on Gmat questions:

The Forton-Dodd bill requires that a bank disclose to their customers how long they will delay access to funds from deposited checks.

A.that a bank disclose to their customers how long they will delay access to funds from deposited checks

B. a bank to disclose to their customers how long they will delay access to funds from a deposited check.

C. that a bank disclose to its customers how long it will delay access to funds from deposited checks

D. a bank that it should disclose to its customers how long it will delay access to funds from a deposited check

E. that banks disclosed to customers how long access to funds from their deposited check is to be delayed

Answer and Explanation -

Ans - C.
D, E - Subjunctive mood rules violated. In D, requires a bank that it should is ungrammatical; requires that a bank is the appropriate idiom. In E, the use of the passive construction is to be delayed is less informative than the
active voice because the passive does not explicitly identify the bank as the agent responsible for the delay
B, like D and E, illogically shifts from the plural customers and funds to the singular check, as if the customers were jointly depositing only one check
A, C - are all fine in the subjunctive rules while B conforms with the use of require someone to do something.
The next point to choose the answer is a pronoun reference. Their and they in A and B do not agree with singular noun bank so these two choices get eliminated also


Subjunctive Verbs

Grammar Girl here.

Today's topic is the past subjunctive, or in terms you might recognize, when to use "I was" and when to use "I were."

Was Versus Were

Carrie from New Orleans asked me to help her understand whether she should say "I wish I were more perceptive" or "I wish I was more perceptive." It's a great question because it's something that a lot of people don't know.

Believe it or not, verbs have moods just like you do. Yes, before the Internet and before emoticons, somebody already thought it was important to communicate moods. So, like many other languages, English has verbs with moods ranging from commanding to questioning and beyond. The mood of the verb "to be" when you use the phrase "I were" is called the subjunctive mood, and you use it for times when you're talking about something that isn't true or you're being wishful.

When to Use Were

Carrie's example is an easy one to start with because her sentence starts with words "I wish"--I wish I were more perceptive--and that's about the biggest clue you can get that her sentence is wishful. Wishful sentences call for the subjunctive mood of the verb "to be," so the right choice is "I were": I wish I were more perceptive. 

Here's another example to help you remember. Think of the song “If I Were a Rich Man,” from Fiddler on the Roof. When Tevye sings “If I were a rich man,” he is fantasizing about all the things he would do if he were rich. He's not rich, he's just imagining, so "If I were" is the correct statement. This time you've got a different clue at the beginning of the line: the word "if." Although it's not always the case, sentences that start with "if" are often also wishful or contrary to fact. Here are some examples:

If I were in charge, I would declare every Friday a holiday.

If he were nicer, I wouldn't hate him so much.

If the ladder were taller, we could reach the cat.

All those sentences use the verb "were" because they aren't true. I was just talking about things I wish would happen or talking about what would happen if things were different from what they actually are. I can't declare every Friday a holiday, he will never be nicer, and the ladder will never be taller. Also notice how in each of those sentences, the part that follows the subjunctive verb contains a word such as "would" or "could." I would declare a holiday. We could reach the cat. Those wishful words are also a clue that you might need the subjunctive mood.

When to Use Was

But "if" and "could" and similar words don't always mean you need to use "I were." For example, when you are supposing about something that might be true, you use use the verb "was." Here's an example:

There was a storm in Mexico. If Richard was in Cabo, he could have missed the call.

Did you hear how that sentence used "if" and "could," but I was talking about something I think was likely to have happened? Because there was a storm, and Richard was in the area, he may have missed the call. The possibility that it happened is what makes this sentence need the indicative mood and not the subjunctive mood. It's why I say "If Richard was" instead of "If Richard were": If Richard was in Cabo, he could have missed the call.

Here's another one:

If Bill was to come over for coffee (as he does every Sunday), we would talk about football.

Again, the reason that is not in the subjunctive mood and I don't say "If Bill were to come over" is that it's not contrary to fact, presupposed to be false, or wishful. It's likely to happen. It's an indicative statement about what will happen if Bill comes over.

Pay Attention to Context to Know How to Use Was and Were

In cases like that it does depend on the context though. I was careful to make the point that Bill comes over every Sunday, so you'd know it's likely he'll be coming over again. If Bill were dead and I was just reminiscing about what it would be like if he were alive, then the same sentence would call for the subjunctive mood. Here are the two options:

If Bill was to come over for coffee, we'd talk about football.

I use "If Bill was" because he comes over every Sunday, so it's probably going to happen again in the future.

If Bill were to come over for coffee, we'd talk about football.

I use "If Bill were" because Bill is dead, and it's not going to happen.

I've included some resource links below for people who want to do more reading about the subjunctive because I know it's a complex topic, and it can help to have more examples.

Thanks again to Carrie for the question. If you have a question you can post it on Facebook or twitter, or send an e-mail to
I'm Mignon Fogarty, author of the paperback book Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, available where all fine books are sold.


The following is a mini-tutorial on the use of the Subjunctive. After you have studied the tutorial, complete the associated exercises. If you already know how to use this verb form, you can skip the explanation and go directly to the exercises.


Use the simple form of the verb. The simple form is the infinitive without the "to." The simple form of the verb "to go" is "go." The Subjunctive is only noticeable in certain forms and tenses.


The Subjunctive is used to emphasize urgency or importance. It is used after certain expressions (see below).
  • I suggest that he study.
  • Is it essential that we be there?
  • Don recommended that you join the committee.


The Subjunctive is only noticeable in certain forms and tenses. In the examples below, the Subjunctive is not noticeable in the you-form of the verb, but it is noticeable in the he-form of the verb.
  • You try to study often. you-form of "try"
  • It is important that you try to study often. Subjunctive form of "try" looks the same.
  • He tries to study often. he-form of "try"
  • It is important that he try to study often. Subjunctive form of "try" is noticeable here.

Verbs Followed by the Subjunctive

The Subjunctive is used after the following verbs:
to advise (that)
to ask (that)
to command (that)
to demand (that)
to desire (that)
to insist (that)
to propose (that)
to recommend (that)
to request (that)
to suggest (that)
to urge (that)
  • Dr. Smith asked that Mark submit his research paper before the end of the month.
  • Donna requested Frank come to the party.
  • The teacher insists that her students be on time.

Expressions Followed by the Subjunctive

The Subjunctive is used after the following expressions:
It is best (that)
It is crucial (that)
It is desirable (that)
It is essential (that)
It is imperative (that)
It is important (that)
It is recommended (that)
It is urgent (that)
It is vital (that)
It is a good idea (that)
It is a bad idea (that)
  • It is crucial that you be there before Tom arrives.
  • It is important she attend the meeting.
  • It is recommended that he take a gallon of water with him if he wants to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Negative, Continuous and Passive Forms of Subjunctive

The Subjunctive can be used in negative, continuous and passive forms.
Negative Examples:
  • The boss insisted that Sam not be at the meeting.
  • The company asked that employees not accept personal phone calls during business hours.
  • I suggest that you not take the job without renegotiating the salary.
Passive Examples:
  • Jake recommended that Susan be hired immediately.
  • Christine demanded that I be allowed to take part in the negotiations.
  • We suggested that you be admitted to the organization.
Continuous Examples:
  • It is important that you be standing there when he gets off the plane.
  • It is crucial that a car be waiting for the boss when the meeting is over.
  • I propose that we all be waiting in Tim's apartment when he gets home.

Should as Subjunctive

After many of the above expressions, the word "should" is sometimes used to express the idea of subjunctiveness. This form is used more frequently in British English and is most common after the verbs "suggest," "recommend" and "insist."
  • The doctor recommended that she should see a specialist about the problem.
  • Professor William suggested that Wilma should study harder for the final exam.


Gap-fill Exercise

Fill in the blanks below with the correct form of the verb in parentheses, then click the "Check" button to check your answers. Negative, passive and continuous subjunctive forms are possible. Use the "Hint" button to get a free letter if an answer is giving you trouble.
1. It's important that she (remember) to take her medicine twice a day.

2. I suggest that Frank (read) the directions carefully before assembling the bicycle. He doesn't want the wheels to fall off while he
is riding down a hill

3. Mrs. Finkelstein demanded that the heater (repair) immediately. Her apartment was freezing.

4. It's vital that the United States (focus) on improving its public education system. What we do now will affect our country for
generations to come.

5. The monk insisted that the tourists (enter) the temple until they had removed their shoes.

6. I am not going to sit here and let her insult me. I demand that she immediately (apologize) for what she just said.

7. Judy asked that we (attend) her graduation ceremony next week.

8. Was it really necessary that (sit) I there watching you the entire time you were rehearsing for the play? It was really
boring watching you repeat the scenes over and over again.

9. It is important to remember that Janine (think) very differently from you. She may not agree to the changes you have made in
the organization of the company.

10. It's a little difficult to find the restaurant. I propose that we all (drive) together so that nobody gets lost along the way.

11. The woman insisted that the lost child (take) to store's information desk so his parents could be paged.

12. The nutritionist recommended that Sally (reduce) her daily fat intake.

13. The environmental leader felt it was extremely important that the people of the city (allow) to voice their concerns over the
new hotel being built on the bay.

14. She told me that the government (regulate) the airline industry. I don't know if that is true.

15. The sign at the pool recommended that you (swim) after eating a large meal.

16. It is necessary that a life guard (monitor) the summing pool while the children are taking their swimming lessons.

17. The sun is scorching today. I suggest you (put) on sunblock immediately before you get a sun burn.

18. John insists that Sarah (invite) to the wedding; otherwise he will not attend.

19. I think it's an interesting fact that she (come) from Estonia.

20. It is imperative that the world (work) towards a solution to global warming before the weather patterns of the world are
disrrupted irreparably.

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