İngilizce Dil Eğitimi, İngilizce Öğreniyorum, THE SUBJUNCTIVE MO

» İngilizce Dil Eğitimi, İngilizce Öğreniyorum, THE SUBJUNCTIVE MO

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CHAPTER 9.  THE SUBJUNCTIVE
1. Uses of the subjunctive

In modern English, the Simple Present Subjunctive is most commonly used in formal commands and requests. In the following examples, the verbs in the Simple Present Subjunctive are underlined.
e.g. They demand that he submit a report.
      We request that you be here tomorrow.

The Simple Present Subjunctive is also still used in a few traditional expressions.
e.g. Long live the King!

The past tenses of the Subjunctive, and the auxiliary would, are used in expressing wishes.
e.g. I wish you were here.
      I wish I had known that.
      I wish the rain would stop.

The past tenses of the Subjunctive, and the auxiliary would, can also be used in order to indicate that conditions being expressed are false or improbable.
e.g. If I were rich, I would travel around the world.
      If he had been here, he would have been glad to see you.

In the first example, the use of the Simple Past Subjunctive were and the Simple conjugation with would indicates that the condition expressed in the clause If I were rich is false or improbable. In the second example, the use of the Past Perfect Subjunctive had been, and the Perfect conjugation with would, indicates that the condition expressed in the clause If he had been here is false.

 

2. Formation of the subjunctive

The English past and present tenses discussed in previous chapters are in what is usually referred to as the Indicative Mood. Each of the past and present tenses in the Indicative Mood has a corresponding tense in the Subjunctive Mood.

In modern English, most verb tenses in the Subjunctive Mood are similar or identical to the corresponding tenses in the Indicative Mood. It should be noted that verbs in the Subjunctive Mood do not modify, but have the same form regardless of the subject.

The Simple Present Subjunctive and Simple Past Subjunctive of the verb to be are shown below. The Indicative forms are also given, for purposes of comparison. The Subjunctive forms which differ from the corresponding Indicative forms are shown in bold type.

The simple indicative and subjunctive tenses of the verb To Be

Simple Present

IndicativeSubjunctive
  I am  I be
  you are  you be
  he is  he be
  she is  she be
  it is  it be
  we are  we be
  they are  they be


Simple Past

IndicativeSubjunctive
  I was  I were
  you were  you were
  he was  he were
  she was  she were
  it was  it were
  we were  we were
  they were  they were


For any verb, the Simple Present Subjunctive is formed from the bare infinitive of the verb.

For any verb except the verb to be, the Simple Past Subjunctive is identical to the Simple Past Indicative.

For all of the past and present tenses conjugated with auxiliaries, the Subjunctive tenses are formed in the same way as the Indicative tenses, except that the Subjunctive of the auxiliaries is used.

Using the example of the verb to work, the following table compares the tenses of the Indicative and Subjunctive Moods. The Subjunctive forms which differ from the corresponding Indicative forms are printed in bold type.

The indicative and subjunctive tenses of the verb To Work

Simple Present

IndicativeSubjunctive
  I work  I work
  you work  you work
  he works  he work
  she works  she work
  it works  it work
  we work  we work
  they work  they work


Present Continuous

IndicativeSubjunctive
  I am working  I be working
  you are working  you be working
  he is working  he be working
  she is working  she be working
  it is working  it be working
  we are working  we be working
  they are working  they be working


Present Perfect

IndicativeSubjunctive
  I have worked  I have worked
  you have worked  you have worked
  he has worked  he have worked
  she has worked  she have worked
  it has worked  it have worked
  we have worked  we have worked
  they have worked  they have worked


Present Perfect Continuous

IndicativeSubjunctive
  I have been working  I have been working
  you have been working  you have been working
  he has been working  he have been working
  she has been working  she have been working
  it has been working  it have been working
  we have been working  we have been working
  they have been working  they have been working


Simple Past

IndicativeSubjunctive
  I worked  I worked
  you worked  you worked
  he worked  he worked
  she worked  she worked
  it worked  it worked
  we worked  we worked
  they worked  they worked


Past Continuous

IndicativeSubjunctive
  I was working  I were working
  you were working  you were working
  he was working  he were working
  she was working  she were working
  it was working  it were working
  we were working  we were working
  they were working  they were working


Past Perfect

IndicativeSubjunctive
  I had worked  I had worked
  you had worked  you had worked
  he had worked  he had worked
  she had worked  she had worked
  it had worked  it had worked
  we had worked  we had worked
  they had worked  they had worked


Past Perfect Continuous

IndicativeSubjunctive
  I had been working  I had been working
  you had been working  you had been working
  he had been working  he had been working
  she had been working  she had been working
  it had been working  it had been working
  we had been working  we had been working
  they had been working  they had been working



The following table summarizes the formation of the English Subjunctive tenses:

TenseAuxiliaryVerb Form
  Simple Present  do  bare infinitive
  Present Continuous  be  present participle
  Present Perfect  have  past participle
  Present Perfect Continuous  have been  present participle
   
  Simple Past  did  bare infinitive
  Past Continuous  were  present participle
  Past Perfect  had  past participle
  Past Perfect Continuous  had been  present participle

 

3. Formal commands and requests


The Simple Present Subjunctive was once more extensively used than it is today. In modern American English, the Simple Present Subjunctive is still used in clauses beginning with the word that which express formal commands or requests. In the following examples, the word that is printed in bold type, and the verbs in the Simple Present Subjunctive are underlined.
e.g. They requested that she arrive early.
      It is important that they be present at the meeting.
      The demand that he provide identification will create a delay.

The main clauses of the preceding examples are they requested, it is important and the demand will create a delay. In the first example, the verb requested is in the Simple Past; in the second example, the verb is is in the Simple Present; and in the third example, the verb will create is in the Simple Future.

As illustrated in these examples, the use of the Simple Present Subjunctive in the subordinate clause of a formal command or request is independent of the tense of the verb in the main clause.

The Simple Present Subjunctive is more commonly used in formal English than in informal English. For instance, the sentence "He advises that you not be late," is an example of formal English. In informal English, the same idea would probably be expressed by the sentence "He advises you not to be late," in which the infinitive is used, rather than a clause requiring the Simple Present Subjunctive.

See Exercise 1.

 

4. Wishes


The past tenses of the Subjunctive, and the auxiliary would, are used in the subordinate clauses of sentences which use the verb to wish in the main clause. In the following examples, the verb to wish is printed in bold type, and the verbs in the subordinate clauses are underlined.
e.g. He wishes that he were rich.
      They wish that they had studied harder when they were young.
      She wishes that you would come to the meeting tomorrow.

It should be noted that the word that can be omitted from a sentence which uses the verb to wish in the main clause.
e.g. He wishes he were rich.
      They wish they had studied harder when they were young.
      She wishes you would come to the meeting tomorrow.

The form of the verb used in the subordinate clause of a wish is independent of the tense of the verb in the main clause. As explained below, the form of the verb used in the subordinate clause of a wish is determined by whether the time of the action referred to in the subordinate clause is earlier than, the same as, or later than the time of the action referred to in the main clause.

a. An earlier time
When the subordinate clause refers to an earlier time than the main clause, the Past Perfect Subjunctive is usually used in the subordinate clause. In the following examples, the verbs in the Past Perfect Subjunctive are underlined.
e.g. We wished he had spoken to us.
      I wish you had called earlier.
      They will wish they had listened to us sooner.

In the case of a continuous, ongoing action, the Past Perfect Continuous Subjunctive may be used instead of the Past Perfect Subjunctive. In the following example, the verb in the Past Perfect Continuous Subjunctive is underlined.
e.g. She wishes she had been staying with us last week.

In each of these examples, the use of the Past Perfect Subjunctive or the Past Perfect Continuous Subjunctive indicates that the subordinate clause refers to an earlier time than the main clause.

See Exercise 2.

b. The same time
When the subordinate clause refers to the same time as the main clause, the Simple Past Subjunctive is usually used in the subordinate clause. In the following examples, the verbs in the Simple Past Subjunctive are underlined.
e.g. When she was at the party, she wished she were at home.
      Now that he is in China, he wishes he understood Chinese.
      When we begin the trip, they will wish they were with us.

In the case of a continuous, ongoing action, the Past Continuous Subjunctive may be used instead of the Simple Past Subjunctive. In the following example, the verb in the Past Continuous Subjunctive is underlined.
e.g. They wish they were traveling now.

In each of these examples, the use of the Simple Past Subjunctive or the Past Continuous Subjunctive indicates that the subordinate clause refers to the same time as the main clause.

See Exercise 3.

c. A later time
When the subordinate clause refers to a later time than the main clause, the Simple conjugation with the auxiliary would is usually used in the subordinate clause. In the following examples, the verbs in the Simple conjugation with would are underlined.
e.g. You wished she would arrive the next day.
      I wish she would change her mind.
      He will wish we would join him the following week.

In each of these examples, the use of the Simple conjugation with would indicates that the subordinate clause refers to a later time than the main clause.

See Exercise 4.

d. Summary
The following table summarizes the verb forms most often used in the subordinate clauses of sentences expressing wishes.

Time Referred to in Subordinate Clause 
Compared to Time Referred to in Main ClauseForm of Verb Used in Subordinate Clause
  
  Earlier  Past Perfect Subjunctive or
   Past Perfect Continuous Subjunctive
   e.g. I wish it had snowed yesterday.
  
  Same  Simple Past Subjunctive or
   Past Continuous Subjunctive
   e.g. I wish it were snowing now.
  
  Later  Simple conjugation with would
   e.g. I wish it would snow tomorrow.


See Exercise 5.

e. Use of the auxiliary Could in expressing wishes
It should be noted that the modal auxiliary could, which will be discussed further in the next chapter, can also be used in the subordinate clause of a sentence expressing a wish. The auxiliary could forms conjugations in the same way as the auxiliary would.
e.g. I wish I could help you tomorrow.
      I wish I could help you now.

As illustrated in the preceding examples, the Simple conjugation with could may be used when the time referred to in the subordinate clause is later than, or the same as, the time referred to in the main clause.

As illustrated in the following example, the Perfect conjugation with could may be used when the time referred to in the subordinate clause is earlier than the time referred to in the main clause.
e.g. I wish I could have helped you yesterday.

 

5. Conditions which are false or improbable

Conditions are most often expressed in subordinate clauses beginning with the word if. In the following examples, the word if is printed in bold type.
e.g. If it had rained yesterday, we would have stayed at home.
The condition contained in this sentence is expressed in the subordinate clause if it had rained yesterday.

Sometimes the word if is omitted from a subordinate clause expressing a condition. When the word if is omitted, the verb (in the case of the Simple tenses of to be), or the first auxiliary, must be placed before the subject. The following pairs of sentences illustrate the change in word order which occurs when the word if is omitted from a clause expressing a condition. In these examples, the verbs of the subordinate clauses are underlined.
e.g. If I were braver, I would challenge him.
      Were I braver, I would challenge him.

      If they had been expecting us, they would have arranged to meet us.
      Had they been expecting us, they would have arranged to meet us.

      If I had not received your message, I would have left.
      Had I not received your message, I would have left.

See Exercise 6.

As well as being expressed in subordinate clauses beginning with the word if, conditions may also be expressed in subordinate clauses beginning with the word unless.
e.g. Unless he were a giant, he would not be able to see over the wall.

Either the Indicative Mood or the Subjunctive Mood can be used to express a condition.

In the case of a condition which is considered true or probable, the Indicative Mood is used.
e.g. If she is here now, we will ask her opinion.
In this example, the verb is is in the Simple Present Indicative. The use of the Simple Present Indicative indicates that the condition if she is here now is considered to be probable.

In the case of a condition which is considered false or improbable, the Subjunctive Mood is used.
e.g. If she were here now, we would ask her opinion.
In this example, the verb were is in the Simple Past Subjunctive. The use of the Simple Past Subjunctive indicates that the condition if she were here now is considered to be false or improbable.

a. Forms of the verb used in the main clause
When a sentence contains a condition which is considered false or improbable, the verb in the main clause is usually in the Simple or Perfect conjugation with the auxiliary would.

i. Referring to present or future time
In a sentence containing a false or improbable condition, if the main clause refers to present or future time, the Simple conjugation with the auxiliary would is usually used. In the following examples, the verbs in the Simple conjugation with would are underlined.
e.g. If he were ready, I would accompany him.
      If she came, I would lend her my bicycle.

In these examples, the use of the Simple conjugation with would indicates that the main clauses I would accompany him and I would lend her my bicycle refer to present or future time.

In the case of a continuous, ongoing action, the Continuous conjugation with would may be used. In the following examples, the verbs in the Continuous conjugation with would are underlined.
e.g. If they were here, he would be speaking to them now.
      If they arrived tomorrow, he would be giving them a tour of the city.

See Exercise 7.

ii. Referring to past time
In a sentence containing a false or improbable condition, if the main clause refers to past time, the Perfect conjugation with the auxiliary would is usually used. In the following example, the verb in the Perfect conjugation with would is underlined.
e.g. If it had snowed, I would have skied in the park.

In this example, the use of the Perfect conjugation with would indicates that the main clause I would have skied in the park refers to past time. The use of the Perfect conjugation with would, combined with the use of the Past Perfect in the subordinate clause, indicates that the condition it had snowed is false, and that the action of skiing did not take place.

In the case of a continuous, ongoing action, the Perfect Continuous conjugation with would may be used. In the following example, the verb in the Perfect Continuous conjugation with would is underlined.
e.g. If they had been here, he would have been speaking to them.

See Exercise 8.

iii. Summary
The forms of the verb most commonly used in the main clauses of sentences containing false or improbable conditions are summarized in the following table.

Referring ToVerb in Main Clause
  Present or  Simple conjugation with would
    future time  or Continuous conjugation with would
   e.g. If you started now, you would arrive on time.
  
  Past time  Perfect conjugation with would
   or Perfect Continuous conjugation with would
   e.g. If you had started yesterday, you would have arrived on time.


See Exercise 9.

iv. Use of the auxiliary Could in sentences containing false or improbable Conditions
It should be noted that the auxiliary could can be used in either the main clause or the subordinate clause of a sentence containing a false or improbable condition. The first pair of examples illustrates the use of the auxiliary could in the main clause. The second pair of examples illustrates the use of the auxiliary could in the subordinate clause.
e.g. If they studied hard, they could pass the exam next year.
      If they had studied hard, they could have passed the exam last year.

      If you could see me now, you would not recognize me.
      If you could have seen me yesterday, you would not have recognized me.

In these examples, the verbs could pass and could see are in the Simple conjugation with could; and the verbs could have passed and could have seen are in the Perfect conjugation with could. As illustrated in these examples, the Simple conjugation with could may be used to refer to present or future time; whereas the Perfect conjugation with could may be used to refer to past time.

b. Forms of the verb used in the subordinate clause
i. Referring to present or future time
In a sentence containing a false or improbable condition, if the subordinate clause refers to present or future time, the Simple Past Subjunctive is usually used. In the following examples, the verbs in the Simple Past Subjunctive are underlined.
e.g. If it snowed, I would ski in the park.
      If he were here, I would give him the books.

In these examples, the use of the Simple Past Subjunctive indicates that the subordinate clauses if it snowed and if he were here refer to present or future time.

In the case of a continuous, ongoing action, the Past Continuous Subjunctive may be used. In the following example, the verb in the Past Continuous Subjunctive is underlined.
      If she were staying here now, I would let her ride my horse.

See Exercise 10.

It should be noted that, in the case of the verb to be, in informal English, the Simple Past Indicative is often used instead of the Simple Past Subjunctive. For instance, the following pair of examples shows how the same idea might be expressed in formal and informal English.

Formal: If he were here now, I would give him the books.
Informal: If he was here now, I would give him the books.

It should be observed that, even when the Indicative is used instead of the Subjunctive, the use of a past tense for an action pertaining to present time, combined with the use of the conjugation with would in the main clause, is enough to indicate clearly that the condition expressed is considered false or improbable. However, this use of was instead of were is considered grammatically incorrect in formal English.

ii. Referring to past time
In a sentence containing a false or improbable condition, if the subordinate clause refers to past time, the Past Perfect Subjunctive is usually used. In the following example, the verb in the Past Perfect Subjunctive is underlined.
e.g. If he had wanted to come, he would have called us.

In this example, the use of the Past Perfect Subjunctive indicates that the subordinate clause if he had wanted to come refers to past time. The use of the Past Perfect Subjunctive also indicates that the condition he had wanted to come is false.

In the case of a continuous, ongoing action, the Past Perfect Continuous Subjunctive may be used. In the following example, the verb in the Past Perfect Continuous Subjunctive is underlined.
e.g. If it had been raining yesterday, I would have taken my umbrella.

See Exercise 11.

iii. Summary
The forms of the Subjunctive most commonly used in subordinate clauses expressing false or improbable conditions are summarized in the following table.

Referring ToVerb in Subordinate Clause
  Present or  Simple Past Subjunctive
    future time  or Past Continuous Subjunctive
   e.g. If you started now, you would arrive on time.
  
  Past time  Past Perfect Subjunctive
   or Past Perfect Continuous Subjunctive
   e.g. If you had started yesterday, you would have arrived on time.


See Exercise 12.

c. Changing a statement containing a probable condition into a statement containing an improbable condition
A statement containing a probable condition can be changed into a statement containing an improbable condition, by changing the forms of the verbs.

For instance, in each of the following pairs of examples, the first statement contains a probable condition; whereas the second statement contains an improbable condition. The verbs in the subordinate clauses and main clauses are underlined.

Probable: If he is here now, we will give him the book.
Improbable: If he were here now, we would give him the book.

Probable: If I have time tonight, I will help you with your homework.
Improbable: If I had time tonight, I would help you with your homework.

In these examples, he is here now and I have time tonight express probable conditions; whereas he were here now and I had time tonight express improbable conditions.

These examples illustrate how, when referring to non-continuous actions in present or future time, a statement containing a probable condition can be changed into a statement containing an improbable condition. The verb in the subordinate clause is changed from the Simple Present Indicative to the Simple Past Subjunctive; and the verb in the main clause is changed from the Simple Future to the Simple conjugation with would.

See Exercise 13.

It is sometimes said that when a verb is in the Indicative Mood, the use of a past tense indicates remoteness in terms of time; however, when a verb is in the Subjunctive Mood, the use of a past tense indicates remoteness in terms of probability.

 

6. The imperative mood

The Imperative Mood is used for giving commands. Like the Simple Present Subjunctive, the Imperative Mood of a verb is formed from the bare infinitive of the verb. For instance, the Imperative of the verb to work is work. In the following examples, the verbs in the Imperative Mood are underlined.
e.g. Work!
      Work harder!

Likewise, the Imperative of the verb to be is be.
e.g. Be more alert!
      You be ready to come with us.

The Imperative Mood can be used only in the second person. As shown in the first three examples above, the subject of the sentence is often omitted when the Imperative Mood is used. In such sentences, the subject you is said to be "understood". In written English, when the subject of the verb is omitted from a command, the command is often followed by an exclamation mark: !

The Imperative Mood can also be used in negative statements. Negative statements are formed using the auxiliary do, followed by the word not. The contraction don't is often used in spoken English. For example:

Without ContractionsWith Contractions
  Do not work so hard.  Don't work so hard.
  Do not be afraid.  Don't be afraid.


See Exercise 14.

 


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