What Is the Subjunctive Mood? (with Examples)

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What Is the Subjunctive Mood? (with Examples)

The subjunctive mood is the verb form used to express a wish, a suggestion, a command, or a condition that is contrary to fact.

The form of a verb in the subjunctive mood may differ from the form with the same subject which is not in the subjunctive mood. For example:
  • I was in your position two years ago.
  • (not in the subjunctive mood)
  • If I were in your position, I would do the same.
  • (subjunctive mood)

Examples of the Subjunctive Mood

Here are some examples of verbs in the subjunctive mood:
  • I wish it were still in use.
  • (it was becomes it were)
  • The board recommended that the motion be passed immediately.
  • (motion is passed becomes motion be passed)
  • She suggests that Mark work full time from Saturday.
  • (Mark works becomes Mark work)
  • He said it was essential that Johan guard the box.
  • (Johan guards becomes Johan guard)
  • It is imperative that the game begin at once.
  • (game begins becomes game begin)
Through common usage, the non-subjunctive forms of verbs are gradually replacing the subjunctive forms. Many of the examples above sound incorrect. In summary, the changes are:

Non-subjunctive Form Non-subjunctive
Subjunctive Form Subjunctive
is He is allowed. be It is essential he be allowed.
was I was ordered. were If I were ordered, I'd go.
present verbs in the third person singular (i.e., ending s) He cooks. remove the s I wish that he cook.

Verbs Which Attract the Subjunctive Mood

The following verbs often attract the subjunctive mood: ask, command, demand, insist, order, recommend, suggest, and wish.

Adjectives Which Attract the Subjunctive Mood

The following adjectives often attract the subjunctive mood: crucial, essential, important, imperative, and necessary.

What Is Mood?

Mood is the form a verb takes to show how it is to be regarded (e.g., as a fact, a command, a wish, an uncertainty).

There are three major moods in English:
  • The Indicative Mood. This states facts or asks questions. For example:
    • They are playing the guitar.
    • Are they playing the guitar?
  • The Imperative Mood. This expresses a command or a request. For example:
    • Play the guitar!
    • Please play the guitar.
  • The Subjunctive Mood. This shows a wish or doubt. For example:
    • I suggest that Lee play the guitar.
    • I propose that Lee be asked to play the guitar.
    • If I were Lee, I would play the guitar.