Subjecting Yourself to the Subjunctive Mood

In the eleventh grade, I took AP English Language and Composition with Miss Voss. She was one of the coolest high school teachers at Silver Creek High School, if not the entire district, city, state, or country. She often started the class with a small grammar lesson, a component of the English language that high school curriculums often neglect. For example, we’d learn about things like adverbial subordinate clauses, present participial phrases, and the like.

As a big grammar nerd myself, I once asked her if she could teach the class about the subjunctive mood because I would get so annoyed with the other students making mistakes with it. After having learned the correct way to do something, it just hurt me so much to see everyone I knew doing it wrong. It was my hope that after they all learned about the subjunctive mood from Voss, I’d never have to hear an “If I was” for the rest of the year.

Of course, true to her nature, Voss suggested that I teach the class about the subjunctive mood because I seemed so passionate about it. At first I was reluctant, but said yes when she agreed to back me up if I needed it.

Today, I’m going to deliver the mini-lesson on the subjunctive mood that I gave my eleventh grade classmates to all of you.


First of all, what is the subjunctive mood?

English Plus explains it as such: “A verb is in the subjunctive mood when it expresses a condition which is doubtful or not factual. It is most often found in a clause beginning with the word if. It is also found in clauses following a verb that expresses a doubt, a wish, regret, request, demand, or proposal.”

In the English we speak today, the subjunctive mood has all but died out, but it is still commonly used in romance languages like French. However, some vestiges of the subjunctive remain today and here are a few examples of this in action, which can be easier to understand than the official definition.


Hypotheticals:

  • Correct: If I were a boy…
  • Wrong: If I was a boy…

 

Wishes:

  • Correct: I wish I were a boy…
  • Wrong: I wish I was a boy…

 

Suggestions:

  • Correct: I suggest that he find…
  • Wrong: I suggest that he finds…

 

Commands:

  • Correct: I demanded that he eat…
  • Wrong: I demanded that he eats…

Hopefully, in writing this article, I get to contribute toward my high school goal of no longer hearing “If I was” from peers. Share this with someone you know who needs to learn!

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