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Are the following usages of subjunctive mood, progressive tense correct?

  • If I be being your wife a shrew, you have the option of divorcing me.

  • If I were being crowned May queen, I would wear a better dress.

  • If I shall be being manager impossible, bla, bla, bla.

Am I on the right track?

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The second works fine. I'm afraid your first and third sentences don't even make enough sense to correct. –  snumpy Apr 18 '11 at 19:21
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@snumpy: The first one isn't that bad, just weird word order. Try "If I, being your wife, be a shrew, then have you the option of divorcing me. –  Ben Voigt Apr 18 '11 at 20:18
    
@mfe: Re #2; Or, If I were in that kind of situation, I would be in a better dress than I am now. –  Dan Apr 18 '11 at 20:56
    
@BenVoigt: I'm sorry but I think this still sounds weird. The original sentence no. 1 is exotic or incorrect ("if I be being"?), and your version still doesn't make sense to me. The word order in "then have you" sounds off (are you aiming at an archaic effect? why the inversion?); the subjunctive in "if I be", while itself correct, sounds too archaic compared to the language of the rest of the sentence... –  Cerberus Apr 18 '11 at 22:26
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2 Answers

Here are some possible revisions that may help:

  1. "If being your wife makes me a shrew, you have the option of divorcing me" is correct but it sounds a bit labored. "You can divorce me" or even "you could always divorce me" sounds more like common (American) speech.

  2. This is a strange example. If read closely, it almost sounds like the speaker means she'd change her dress at the moment of being crowned. "I would have worn a better dress" sounds more like the real thing.

  3. "If my being the manager is impossible..." works.

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On the off-chance that you meant for the "being your wife" bit to be an absolute phrase, than we could fix up your sentences in this way. Unfortunately, the subjunctive just won't work in some of these sentences in current English.

  1. “If I, (being) your wife, am a shrew, you have the option of divorcing me.” You don't want a subjunctive here, since what you have is a simple condition (note that your apodosis is in the indicative). If you wanted a subjunctive-like condition, you'd have to change it to something like “If I, (being) your wife, were (being) a shrew, you would have the option of divorcing me.”

  2. “If I were being crowned May queen, I would wear a better dress.” This sentence is just fine! “If I were being crowned May queen, I would be wearing a better dress” is also OK, though it changes the meaning slightly.

  3. “If I, being manager, shall be impossible, blah blah blah.” This is OK, but somewhat archaic-sounding; today, we’d probably say “If I, being manager, should be impossible…”.

Of course, the first and last sentence are pretty awkward with the “being [something]” phrase embedded in them.

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