Moods Grammar Index Page

The Subjunctive Mood - Uses

Up to now you have used the indicative and imperative moods and the active and passive voices whenever you worked with conjugated verb forms. The imperative form, taken from impero ('command'), is indeed a command form. The indicative, from dico ('say'), is the form that indicates a fact either stated or believed (literally, it indicates 'fact').

The subjunctive mood is harder to recognize in English than it is in Latin. Yes, it does exist in English, as well as in other modern languages. In English we use it in contrary-to-fact statements:

If I were you, I would read that book.
Agatha acts as if she knew everything.
I wish you were my sister.

In these examples the implication is that (a) I am not you, (b) Agatha does not know everything, and (c) you are not my sister. The subjunctive in English is also used following verbs of asking, demanding and recommending:

I am home by 10 p.m. Mother asked that I be home by 10 p.m.
John will finish the paper on time. The professor recommended that John finish the paper on time.
The cook tastes the dinner. The unhappy patron demanded that the cook taste the dinner.

Notice the change of verb in the subjunctive clause of each second sentence: I be instead of I am; finish instead of will finish; taste instead of tastes.

In Latin the subjunctive mood is used to represent the predicate as an idea, as something conceived in the mind but abstract or removed from reality: a wish, a doubt, a purpose, a mild command, a condition, and so on. The English helper verbs - may, can, must, might, could, would, should - are frequently used when translating a Latin subjunctive.

1. The Subjunctive in Independent (Main) Clauses

2. The Subjunctive in Dependent (Subordinate) clauses

Other uses and forms of the subjunctive will be explored later on, but for now these should keep you busy!

Joan Jahnige, November 1998 (updated 2005)

Sources: AMSCO Review Text, Latin Two Years, Ecce Romani II

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