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What You Need to Know About the Subjunctive Mood

If you’re a dedicated language learner, you know that there are several types of sentences:

Statements, questions, commands, and so on.

But what happens when we want to talk about a situation that is not guaranteed to occur? That’s where the subjunctive mood comes in! To put it in simple terms, the subjunctive mood is used to talk about a desired or hypothetical situation. Now let’s jump in…

Imagined Situations

Subjunctive conditionals are made up of two parts. The subjunctive clause proposes a scenario that is not currently real, and then the indicative clause completes that scenario by describing what would happen if it were.

  • If I were to relocate, I would move to the countryside.
  • He would clean his room if he had more time.
  • If she were rich, she would travel around the world.

Notice how “was” changes to “were” no matter the subject noun? This is intentional and one of the main tells that a sentence is subjunctive.

Advice, Recommendations, and Demands

In that-clauses, certain verbs trigger a subjunctive format. These include “demand”, “suggest”, “advise”, “request”, etc.  

  • I suggest that you keep your distance.
  • It is recommended that we send a small gift.
  • She asks that everyone be patient.

Subjunctive verbs are used in their base form. “Be” does not turn into “is”, “am”, or “are” as it normally would.

If I were you…

This structure is common for giving indirect suggestions on a recommended course of action.

  • If I were you, I would hire a lawyer.
  • I wouldn’t lease a car if I were you.

Wishes and Desires

To express a want or hope for something to happen, use “wish” in subjunctive sentences.

  • I wish you would tell me what you think.
  • He wishes he were more intelligent.

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