Subjunctive Mood

Introduction

In English grammar, a verb has number (singular, plural), tense (present, past, future, et al.), and voice (active, passive) as well as different forms (see, seeing, seen). Another attribute that a verb can possess is called mood. Mood is the form of the verb that shows the manner (or mode) in which a thought is expressed.

Useful links – Moods Subjunctive Mood

Objectives

  1. To learn what subjunctive mood is.
  2. To learn when to use subjunctive mood.
  3. To learn how to use subjunctive mood.

Moods

In American English, there are three moods:

This discussion will focus on the subjunctive mood.

Subjunctive Mood

The structure of the subjunctive is extremely simple.
For all verbs (except the past tense of be), the subjunctive is the same as the bare infinitive (infinitive without “to”):

be (past) be (present) all other verbs (past & present)
I were

you were

he, she, it were

we were

you were

they were

I be

you be

he, she, it be

we be

you be

they be

I work

you work

he, she, it work

we work

you work

they work

Note that the subjunctive is always plural (I were, he work) in number. It has no singular form.

Uses

The subjunctive mood is mainly used 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
  • anticipates 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 to be at the meeting tomorrow, the President would be happy.

Sentence Structures Requiring Subjunctive Mood

A sentence may contain multiple clauses (independent, dependent). If certain verbs or expressions are used in the MAIN clause, then the MAIN clause must be followed by what I will call a SUBJUNCTIVE clause that uses a verb in the subjunctive mood.

  • Certain verbs are followed by a clause in subjunctive mood.
    Here are a few:

    – ask that
    – command that
    – demand that
    – insist that
    – propose that
    – recommend that
    – request that
    – suggest that
  • Certain expressions are followed by a clause in subjunctive mood.
    Here are a few:
    – it is desirable that…
    – it is essential that…
    – it is important that…
    – it is necessary that…
    – it is vital that…

Examples

  1. The librarian asks that we be very quiet in the library.
  2. The general commands that all soldiers obey orders without hesitation.
  3. The teacher demanded that the students quiet down immediately.
  4. The company insists that each employee sign an employment contract.
  5. I propose that we adjourn the meeting for lunch.
  6. I recommend that LEWWWP members join Lee’s World of Edutainment Group.
  7. I request that each student respect the privacy of other students.
  8. My girlfriend suggests that we eat Italian tonight.
  9. It is highly desirable that we get an early start on our hike tomorrow.
  10. It is essential that a student learning English increase their vocabulary daily.
  11. It is important that every student participate in my discussions for maximum learning.
  12. It is necessary that all the paperwork be filled out correctly and completely.
  13. It is vital that no one see us when we sneak into the security area.
  14. If I were you, I would not do that.
  15. If he were rich, he would spend all his money on women, drinking, and gambling.
  16. Let it be known that the king will visit next week.
  17. May all your wishes come true.

Insights about the Examples Above

  1. Almost all of the sentences are about what someone wants to happen, wishes would happen, or requires someone else to do.
  2. All subjunctive verbs are plural even is the subject is singular.
  3. The subjunctive clause is always simple present tense using the bare infinitive. The only exception is that the verb “to be” may be present (be) or past (were).
  4. Examples 1 through 8 use the “certain verbs”.
  5. Examples 9 through 13 use the “certain expressions”.
  6. Examples 14 and 15 are hypothetical, unreal situations.
  7. Examples 16 and 17 are two other common sentence structures that require subjunctive mood.

Self-Assessment

Fill in the blanks with the correct verb forms:

  1. May all your Christmas holidays _____ merry (happy).
  2. “If all my problems _____ dollar bills, I would be a rich man,” he lamented.
  3. It is extremely important that this step _____ done without error.
  4. I would only ask one thing of him–that he _____ it quickly. [verb “to do”]
  5. Let it _____ said that I gave it my all (my best effort).
  6. It is vital that the English learner _____ subjunctive mood. [verb “to understand”]
  7. I recommend that all my students _____ this self-assessment quiz. [verb “to do”]
  8. Do you suggest that I _____ her out for a date? [verb “to ask”]
  9. The boss demands that we _____ his directions without question. [verb “to follow”]
  10. It is necessary that we _____ quick and _____ no mistakes. [verbs “to be”, “to make”]

Homework

I request that every viewer of this lesson leave a comment and give one example of a sentence using subjunctive mood. Let it be known that this means you–yes, you.

27 comments

  1. Teacher Lee, all,
    I reviewed the subjunctive mood again.
    I myself as a learner believe that five subjects are difficult to understand them for a foreign learner like me.
    It is only my opinion.
    Maybe, it isn’t correct for other learners.
    It is only my experience.
    They are in below:
    A- Relative Pronouns.
    B- Subjunctive Mood.
    C- The verb “to be”, because it is very irregular.
    D- Using “coordinating conjunctions”, and also “subordinate conjunctions”.
    E- Using “would”.
    You told me before, “Would” has many uses in English grammar.
    Please, if you have a link about it, I will be very happy to get it.
    Here are my questions:
    1. Can we say “certain verbs or expressions” are usually used in the independent clause?
    You have said that about “main clause” in your lesson.
    Sometimes, it looks like that “independent clause” and “main clause” are the same.
    2. Can we say “the subjunctive mood” is usually used in the dependent clause?
    3. Why have you used a “underline” below “Let it be known that”?
    I cannot see “Let it be known that” in your above certain expressions.
    4.Why have you used a “underline” below of “May”?
    I cannot see “May” in your above certain verbs, please?
    Teacher Lee, all,
    I know that you and others are very very busy.
    Please, you feel free to answer me anytime you have free time.
    I only wanted to active the site.
    I am not in rush for getting my answer.
    Thanks,

    1. 1. Can we say “certain verbs or expressions” are usually used in the independent clause?
      YES
      You have said that about “main clause” in your lesson. Sometimes, it looks like that “independent clause” and “main clause” are the same.
      YES
      2. Can we say “the subjunctive mood” is usually used in the dependent clause?
      YES
      3. Why have you underlined “Let it be known that”?
      To let you know that (a) these words are often used together as a collocation and (b) that “Let it be known” is a subjunctive mood expression.
      4.Why have you underlined “May”?
      To let you know that “May____ (verb)” is a commonly used subjunctive mood expression/pattern.
      => May all your dreams come true.
      => May your days be filled with happiness.
      => May he find peace.
      => May you succeed.
      => May you achieve all your dreams.
      => May you find what you are looking for.

      1. Teacher Lee, all,
        I studied your answers carefully.
        In addition, I studied your lesson again.
        In accordance your lesson, and also your recent answers, I present my new questions:
        1. Can we use certain verbs in all tenses?
        Examples:
        A- My father asked that (main clause) I be polite in my life.
        B- My father had asked that I be kind with people.
        2. Can we use certain expressions in all tenses?
        Examples:
        A- It was important that you be kind.
        B- It was vital that you work hard.
        3. You have presented the below sentence in your above lesson:
        If you were to be at the meeting tomorrow, the president would be happy.
        Why have you used “were and to be” with each other, please?
        4. Why does “a few” mean in your above lesson?
        Does it mean that there are other certain verbs too?
        If yes, you told me before “a few” means maximum 5.
        I can see here, there are eight certain verbs.
        5. About the sentence “let it be known that…”, you have said that it is the subjunctive mood.
        A- So can we say “the king will visit next week”, is “main clause” for it?
        B- If yes, can we use “main clause” in all tenses?
        6. You have separated “certain verbs” and “certain expressions”
        in your lesson.
        So why have you said that the verb “may” is a commonly used subjunctive mood expression/pattern?
        Does it mean “may = certain verb = certain expression = subjunctive mood”?
        7. Where are “main clauses” in your below sentences, please?
        A- May all your dreams come true.
        B- May your days be filed with happiness.
        C- May he find peace.
        D- May you succeed.
        E- May you achieve all your dreams.
        F- May you find what you are looking for.
        8. Can we use your sentences in below form too (subjunctive mood):
        A- All your dreams may come true.
        B- Your days may be filed with happiness.
        C- He may find peace.
        D- You may succeed.
        E- You may achieve all your dreams.
        F- You may find what you are looking for.
        And also,
        I changed Teacher Dian’s sentence (Bijan, may all your wishes come true next year) in below form:
        Bijan, all your wishes may come true in next year.
        Are my new sentences in the subjunctive mood, please?
        Thanks,

  2. 1. Can we use certain verbs in all tenses?
    Examples:
    A- My father asked that (main clause) I be polite in my life.
    B- My father had asked that I be kind with people.

    You are asking me if “to ask” can be used in all tenses. What do you think the answer is?
    =====
    2. Can we use certain expressions in all tenses?
    Examples:
    A- It was important that you be kind.
    B- It was vital that you work hard.

    You are asking me is “to be” can be used in all tenses. What do you think the answer is?
    =====
    3. You have presented the below sentence in your above lesson:
    If you were to be at the meeting tomorrow, the president would be happy.
    Why have you used “were and to be” with each other, please?

    “If you were at the meeting” refers to the past.
    “If you were to be at the meeting” refers to the future.
    =====
    4. Why does “a few” mean in your above lesson?
    Does it mean that there are other certain verbs too?
    If yes, you told me before “a few” means maximum 5.
    I can see here, there are eight certain verbs.

    I don’t think I ever said “a few” was a maximum of 5. “A few” has no specific limit.
    “A few” always means not many. I gave you a few; I did not give you all of them. There may be ten more or there may be 1000 more, but I only gave you a few.
    =====
    5. About the sentence “let it be known that…”, you have said that it is the subjunctive mood.
    A- So can we say “the king will visit next week”, is “main clause” for it?
    B- If yes, can we use “main clause” in all tenses?

    “Main clause” simply means the most important independent clause in the sentence — the one that expresses the MAIN IDEA of the sentence.
    =====
    6. You have separated “certain verbs” and “certain expressions” in your lesson.
    So why have you said that the verb “may” is a commonly used subjunctive mood expression/pattern? Does it mean “may = certain verb = certain expression = subjunctive mood”?

    “Certain verbs and expressions” means they can be determined by extensive research, which I am not going to do because there is no need to create a long list that cannot be memorized.
    The reason I said that the verb “may” is commonly used in subjunctive mood expression/patterns is because it is commonly used in subjunctive mood expression/patterns. There is no why. It’s just how we use “may” in certain expressions (and I am not going to research and try to list every possible expression that can use “may” in subjunctive mood because it is a waste of time.)
    Just learn from my examples. Don’t try to create 300 other examples. It’s a waste of time.
    =====
    7. Where are “main clauses” in your below sentences, please?
    A- May all your dreams come true.
    B- May your days be filed with happiness.
    C- May he find peace.
    D- May you succeed.
    E- May you achieve all your dreams.
    F- May you find what you are looking for.

    Bijan, think about what you are asking. How many clauses are there in each sentence? ONE. So how many possible answers are there for each sentence? ONE. So why are you asking this question when the answer is obvious?
    .
    “Main clause” simply means the most important independent clause in the sentence — the one that expresses the MAIN IDEA of the sentence.
    .
    So if there if only ONE clause, it MUST be the MAIN clause because it is the ONLY clause.
    =====
    8. Can we use your sentences in below form too (subjunctive mood):
    A- All your dreams may come true. NO – not subjunctive mood. Study my examples.
    B- Your days may be filled with happiness. NO.
    C- He may find peace. NO.
    D- You may succeed. NO.
    E- You may achieve all your dreams. NO.
    F- You may find what you are looking for. NO.
    And also, I changed Teacher Dian’s sentence (Bijan, may all your wishes come true next year) in below form: Bijan, all your wishes may come true in next year.
    Are my new sentences in the subjunctive mood, please? NO.
    —–
    They are NOT subjunctive mood because they use “may”. They are subjunctive mood because of HOW they use “may”. It is the FIRST word in the clause. When you move “may” to a different position, you have changed the meaning of the sentence. It is no longer subjunctive mood. Study my examples. I wrote them the way I did because that is the way they must be written.
    =====

    1. Teacher Lee, all,
      First, sorry for disturbing you.
      I told you before that some English grammar subjects are very difficult to understand them for a foreign learner.
      One of them is the subjunctive mood.
      Second, thank you for your patience.
      You have a lot of patience for answering students’ questions.
      Third, I understand from your answers that we usually use certain verbs, and also certain expressions in simple present tense.
      Am I correct, please?
      Fourth, about the verb “to be”.
      I told you before that the verb “to be” is very complicated for a foreign learner like me.
      Can we say:
      If you were at the meeting, the president would be happy?
      Is the above sentence in the subjunctive mood?

      1. First, sorry for disturbing you.

        You don’t need to say this. I am here to answer your questions. Therefore, you are not disturbing me. In fact, you are doing exactly what I expect you to be doing.
        =====
        I understand from your answers that we usually use certain verbs, and also certain expressions in simple present tense.
        Am I correct, please?

        No. Subjunctive mood verbs will always be in present tense except for “were”.
        =====
        About the verb “to be”. Can we say:
        If you were at the meeting, the president would be happy?
        Is the above sentence in the subjunctive mood?

        No. See my previous response. “If you were at the meeting” is PAST tense. To talk about the hypothetical FUTURE, you should say “If you were TO BE be at the meeting”, then would be subjunctive mood.

  3. Teacher Lee, all,
    First, I decided to write five sentences for each of certain verbs, and also each of certain expressions.
    Second, I will write my sentences in accordance with your above examples.
    Third, here are my new sentences about the certain verb “ask”:
    1. I ask that he be polite.
    2. My girlfriend asks that I go her home.
    3. My teacher asks that I be careful in my lessons.
    4. They asked that we be at a park.
    5. We asked that they be kind.
    Thanks,

    1. 1. I ask that he be polite. OK

      2. My girlfriend asks that I go TO her home.
      (go home [my home], but go TO someone else’s home)

      3. My teacher asks that I be careful in my lessons. OK

      4. They asked that we be at THE park.
      Needs to be a specific park; otherwise, you have to visit every park in town to find them.

      5. We asked that they be kind. OK

  4. Teacher Lee, all,
    Here are my sentences about the certain verb “command that”:
    1. My girlfriend commends that I obey her.
    2. They commended that we be at the golf club.
    3. She commended that her boyfriend pay for her new car.
    4. She commands that her boyfriend pay her dinner.
    5. My teacher commands that I review my lesson.

    1. I made a mistake when I typed the word “command”.
      I love practising English grammar so I make mistakes when I type words sometimes.
      Sorry.
      I have written them again:
      1. My girlfriend commands that I obey her (Teacher Lee, it is only for fun).
      2. They commanded that we be at the golf club.
      3. She commanded that her boyfriend pay for her new car.
      Thanks,

  5. Here are my new sentences about the certain verb “demand that”:
    1. My father demanded that my friend explain the accident.
    2. My teacher demands that I write the sentence.
    3. I demand that my girlfriend be quite.
    4. They demanded that the boy answer the question.
    5. We demand that he go out immediately.

  6. Teacher Lee. 

    Today, I have written my sentences about the certain verb "insist that".  

     

    1. I insist that my friend be careful. 

    2. Our teacher insisted that a student go to a library. 

    3. I insist that I pay for her pizza tonight.

    4. My friend insist that he pay my debt. 

    5. I insist that I pay her bill tomorrow.

    6. Our teacher insist that he learn English well.

    7. My father insisted that I be a social person.  

     

    Thanks,

     

     

    1. If you are telling me this, then this is reported speech, so you must use past tense.

      1. I insisted that my friend be careful. 

      3. I insisted that I pay for her pizza tonight.

      4. My friend insisted that he pay my debt. 

      5. I insisted that I pay her bill tomorrow.

      6. Our teacher insisted that he learn English well.

      Only the subjunctive verb need be in present tense.  The main verb can be any tense.

      1. Teacher Lee. 

         

        If I am not telling you this, so can I use "present tense, or other tense" in above sentences, please? 

        For example, I will insist that (Main Verb= any tense) I pay for her pizza tonight.

        1. Bijan, your sentence is using future tense.

               I will insist that I pay for her pizza tonight.
               (indirect speech; you are talking to me about her)

          You can only use present tense if you are talking directly to her.

              "I insist that I pay for your pizza tonight."
               (direct speech; you are talking to her)

          Does this answer your question?

          1. Yes. Be sure. I had a doubt in this subject.  I wanted to tell when I am talking with her, which tense should we use?  

             

            A-  I can understand from your explanation when I am talking with her, I should only use the present tense in main clause.   

             

            B-  I can also understand when I am talking about her with another person, I can use any tense in main verb.   

             

            C-  Here are my sentences about the certain verb propose that:  

             

            1. I propose that we revise the bylaws (from Merriam Webster Dictionary). 

            2. Our teacher propose that his students review all lessons sometimes. 

            3. My friend propose that we go to the north of the Iran for holidays. 

            4. My mother proposed that I be sincere in my life. 

            5. Our website propose that each student can use free classes. 

            6. My teacher proposed that I use the readable writing.  

            7. I propose that the website have classes on Skype too.

            8. I propose that students be active on the site. 

            9. I always propose that my friends be in peace.

  7. 2. Our teacher proposes that his students review all lessons sometimes. 

    3. My friend proposes that we go to the north of the Iran for holidays. 

    5. Our website proposes that each student can use free classes. 
     

    Don't forget about the rules for Third Person Singular.

    1. Oh, sometimes I make a mistake in the main clause, and I use rules of the subjunctive mood in the main clause. Thus, my friend proposes that we go to the north of Iran for holidays.  

       

      One question, please: 

      Should we the rules for Third Person Singular use for all positions (my teacher, your teacher, his teacher, our teacher, their teacher), please?  

      Example: Their teacher proposes that (Main Clause) their student review all lessons sometimes.  

       

      Thanks,

        1. Teacher Lee. 

           

          I always had a problem with this subject. I thought adjectives (our, their and so on) can change words like teacher (Third person singular), website (Third thing singular) and so on. I thought "our teacher, or our website should use plural verb.     

           

          Your explanation was excellent for me.

  8. I'm just re reading the lesson to retain it in my memory. 

    I suggest that you visit this website at least once a week to improve your English. 

    I request that you leave a comment after reading a blog. 

     

      1. I'm just re-reading the lesson to retain it in my memory.
      2. I suggest that you visit this website at least once a week to improve your English. 
      3. I request that you leave a comment after reading a blog. 

      All sentences are correct, and I appreciate your relevant requests.  broken heart

      Grammar tip:  "re" in the sense of "again" is not a word and cannot be used alone.  Use "rereading" or "re-reading".

  9. Teacher Lee. 

     

    Here are my sentences about the verb "recommend that": 

    1. Our teacher recommends that we practise more.

    2. Our website recommends that all students be active. 

    3. I recommend that the website send notifications for members. 

    4. My teacher recommended that I write in a clear way. 

    5. Their teacher recommends that they be polite.  

     

    Thanks,

     

     

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