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What is Subjunctive Mood in English? Definition, Examples - Studywindows - A Simple Educational Blog for Children

What is Subjunctive Mood in English? Definition, Examples

what subjunctive mood English definition sentence examples

In this article, we will learn what is Subjunctive Mood of verbs in English, its definition, examples, different rules, along with a lot of examples. Let’s explore!

What is Subjunctive Mood in English? Definition

In English grammar, the concept of mood plays a vital role. Among them, subjunctives are one of a kind. Although the use of subjunctive moods is very limited these days, it is necessary to learn about them to understand the language better.

Subjunctive Mood Definition

In the English language, there are three moods for describing a situation or a mental state. These are as follows,

  • imperative mood,
  • indicative mood, and, lastly,
  • subjunctive mood.

Each of them is used for different reasons. Like, one can use the indicative mood to state facts or your personal opinions, and then you have the imperative mood, which is used for giving orders and other instructions, and lastly, you have the subjunctive mood, which can be used to express some wish, proposal and even suggestions.

This mood is also applicable to imaginary situations. Now, let’s look at the subjunctive mood in a bit detailed manner.

How Does Subjunctive Mood Look Like? Examples

When we are talking about moods, it is always about verbs. So, when it comes to the subjunctive verb, we will see two clauses where one clause will carry the subjunctive verb, and the other clause will have the indicative verb. Now, let’s look at an example of one such clause.

  • “He suggested that they should visit the amazing Victoria Memorial.”
  • Here, “he suggested,” carries the indicative mood sense, and the latter part of the sentence, “they should visit…” carries the subjunctive sense with the verb “visit” carrying the subjunctive mode.

“That they should visit the Victoria Memorial” is the proposal made by the stated assertion of “he suggested.” In this context, we must note that “Suggest” is one of the verbs, which frequently plays as an indicative partner to another verb’s subjunctive use. Some other such verbs are,

  • require,
  • ask,
  • demand,
  • urge,
  • insist, and
  • wish.

Frankly, the subjunctive mode is very difficult to trace in the sentence. In most cases, it’s the context that matters the most. Like, in the previous example, where the subjunctive verb visit is the same as in the main sentence of “That they should visit the Victoria Memorial”.

But when you replace the “they” with “she,” then the subjunctive form of the verb visit will appear as completely different, and in the indicative, you will get “She visits the famous Victoria Memorial”; in the subjunctive, it’s “They suggested that she visit that fabulous cat.”

Subjunctive Mood with “Be” and “Were”

One of the most significant usages of the subjunctive mode is with the common but grammatically complicated verb “be”. So, when you are using this mode in the present subjunctive, you need to stick to “am”, “are”, or “is” according to its subject.

But things change completely when you are using the past subjunctive. There you have to stick were, even when was would seem to be the appropriate form. However, in this scenario, we have to understand the names of the present subjunctive and the past subjunctive.

If we are to be precise, then the present subjunctive actually refers to the future (“I request my friend that the exhibition at the gallery of Victoria Memorial is available during my visit”). Still, the past subjunctive usually refers to both the present and the past (“I wish that the guards at the Memorial were more cooperative”).

So, frankly, the different names are there because the subjunctive forms look just like ordinary past and present forms. Another important but less talked about usages of subjunctive forms as well. First of all, there are a few phrases that can be used very frequently, but they are pretty formal sounding. Like for example, a few of them are:

  • So be it,
  • Be that as it may
  • Come what may
  • Suffice it to say
  • Heaven/God forbid

These phrases indeed exist, but in most cases, they are treated as something archaic.

Examples of Subjunctive Mood in English

Present Subjunctive Mood

Just like discussed earlier, the subjunctive form in the present tense is absolutely like the base form of the verb in all persons. Here, you don’t have to worry about the 3rd person singular. Also, keep in mind that the subjunctive clause is used in a very formal way in English. Since it carries a subordinate clause, there you can see verbs expressing a desire, a demand, a formal recommendation, or a resolve.

  • I only ask that he stops behaving in this indecent manner. It is essential that they are stopped at all costs.
  • Is it really necessary that he works so hard and gets paid so little?
  • I demand that he takes some actions to make amends for his deed.

Here, the clause carrying the subjunctive mood is linked to the main clause with that. Surprisingly, the use of the subjunctive is more common in American English than in British English. This is because British speakers usually go for other ways of expressing the same message, especially during their less formal speech.

  • I only ask that he should stop behaving in this indecent manner.
  • It is vital that they must be stopped at once.
  • Is it pretty necessary for him to work so hard and get paid so little?
  • I demand that he does something to make amends for his deed.

Past Subjunctive Mood

Most of the time, in written English and very formal speech, you have to use the verb “were” as the past subjunctive form with the 1st and 3rd person singular. This will replace the standard past form “was”. Some examples of the past subjunctive are:

After if or I wish, when you want to express regret or longing:

  • If your mother were here, she would indeed help you.
  • If you were rich, you would buy a nice car.
  • I wish I were stronger.
  • If only you were here now!

After as if/as though and other similar expressions while expressing doubt or improbability.

  • You obey him as if he were your master!
  • Some people behave as though they were the King of this world.


So, there you have it, everything that you need to know about the two forms of the subjunctive, along with some examples. I believe with this post; you now have a clear idea about using subjunctive correctly and with the right context. Plus, it will make your formal speech much more exciting as well.

Just keep in mind the verb forms and the rules related to them mentioned in the post. Should you have any further questions on the subjunctive, their uses, rules, exceptions, and examples, then please feel free to drop them in the comments section. We will try our best to answer your questions on subjunctives as early as we can. Check out to our most interesting articles,

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