Saturday, March 13, 2010

Subjunctive Mood : Frequently Asked Questions

1 What is Subjunctive Mood?

The word mood has more or less the same meaning in grammar as in common parlance . . In common parlance it refers to one's state of mind . In grammar ,too, it refers to the speaker's state of mind when he makes an utterance . The speaker may say something as a statement of fact ( indicative mood) , as a command or request (imperative mood ) or he may be expressing aa opinion, suggestion, demand, doubt or a wish .(subjunctive mood) .

Look at these sentences :

*He is a student

* Bring me a glass of beer .

* I wish (that) I were rich .

The first sentence is statement of a fact . and so it is in the indicative mood .

The second sentence is a request or a command , and so it is in the imperative mood .

The third sentence expresses a wish, and so it is in the subjunctive mood .

2 How do we know that the speaker is using one mood rather than the other?

The form of the verb provides the clue! Majority of English sentences are in the indicative mood . The various verb forms we learn are in the indicative mood for that reason . The imperative mood makes use of the base- form of the verb . Subjunctive mood is signalled by the base- form of the verb where we expect some other forms ! Base -form of the verb is used in the that -clause , no matter whether the verb in the main clause is in the present tense or past tense .

Subjunctive mood is used in the that- clause after words like demand, insist , suggest, recommend , request etc . When the main clause is It is necessary , It is important , It is essential etc , it is usual to use subjunctive mood in the that-clause that follows it . Why?The speaker is expressing a view , and not making statement of a fact in the that-clause. Examples:

* He demanded that his salary be raised .

*Our Manager insists that everybody come in time .

* It is essential that we work together in unity .

* She insists that every student read this book .

Please note that the use of base form of the verb signals that it is not statement of a fact but only somebody's demand , insistence and so on!

3 What is the mood of the verb in sentences using as if / as though ?

After as if / as though indicative mood is unacceptable . As if is contraction of " as it would be if it were" Example :

He talked as if he were drunk

This sentence means he talked as he would talk if he were drunk .

The subjunctive verb were (where we expect was ) signals that it is not a fact but only an impression that one gets from his way of talking . Other examples :

* He behaves as if he were our boss .

*She looked pale as she saw a ghost .

* He smiled at me as if he had known me for several years!

Please note that past perfect is used when the action belongs a distinctly earlier time . Another example

He ate fast as if he had not eaten for several days

I hope that this lesson has been of help to you .

Thank you for visiting!

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