Definition of subjunctive in English:

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Pronunciation: /səbˈdʒʌŋ(k)tɪv/


Relating to or denoting a mood of verbs expressing what is imagined or wished or possible. Compare with indicative.
Example sentences
  • If on the other hand, a logophoric pronoun/long-distance reflexive and subjunctive mood are deployed, it indicates that the speaker does not take the responsibility for the truth of the report.
  • In English, such verbs have largely replaced the subjunctive mood, and three kinds of modality can be distinguished for them.
  • French also has the option (which exists also, but very marginally, in English) of the embedded clause appearing in the subjunctive mood.


1A verb in the subjunctive mood.
Example sentences
  • Because I have been using English naturally for the best part of sixty years I have stopped thinking about the construction of sentences (gerunds, subjunctives, conjunctions and prepositions, and all that).
  • Milton's speech here is full of subjunctives and conditionals which reinforce the dream's and the muse's role of masking the direct activity of the speaker.
  • Again, as in the case of muncho, haiga, the present subjunctive of the verb haber, is also an archaism still found in many dialects of Spanish.
1.1 (the subjunctive) The subjunctive mood.


... if I were you; the report recommends that he face the tribunal; it is important that they be aware of the provisions of the act. These sentences all contain a verb in the subjunctive mood. The subjunctive is used to express situations which are hypothetical or not yet realized, and is typically used for what is imagined, hoped for, demanded, or expected. In English the subjunctive mood is fairly uncommon (especially in comparison with other languages such as French and Spanish), mainly because most of the functions of the subjunctive are covered by modal verbs such as might, could, and should. In fact, in English the subjunctive is often indistinguishable from the ordinary indicative mood, since its form in most contexts is identical. It is distinctive only in the third person singular, where the normal indicative -s ending is absent ( he face rather than he faces in the example above), and in the verb ‘to be’ ( I were rather than I was and they be rather than they are in the examples above). In modern English the subjunctive mood still exists but is regarded in many contexts as optional. Use of the subjunctive tends to convey a more formal tone but there are few people who would regard its absence as actually wrong. Today it survives mostly in fixed expressions, as in be that as it may; God help you; perish the thought; and come what may.



Example sentences
  • Not all of the implicit narratives incorporated subjunctively within the text are quite so coherent or so ruthless in their ill fated logic as Violet's private narrative of her relationship with Henry.
  • At other times, it is less easy to be sure quite to what extent the narrator's words should be read subjunctively.


Mid 16th century: from French subjonctif, -ive or late Latin subjunctivus, from subjungere (see subjoin), rendering Greek hupotaktikos 'subjoined'.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: sub|junct¦ive

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