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Why have the subjunctive and indicative converged in Modern English?

Simple question, should you say "what matters most is that the merger is successful"

or: "what matters most is that the merger be successful"?

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marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, Mehper C. Palavuzlar, simchona, Jasper Loy, kiamlaluno Nov 23 '11 at 2:36

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

What matters most is that the merger be successful sounds better to me. The subjunctive mood shows that the merger hasn't happened yet and you are expressing a wish for it to be successful.

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Would you extend that to all persons? 'What matters most is that I be successful', for example. – Barrie England Nov 22 '11 at 13:50
Yes, it doesn't sound odd to me. It isn't a real situation, therefore the indicative doesn't express the wish as clearly as the subjunctive, I think. – Irene Nov 22 '11 at 13:53
Thanks for your answer Irene. As Barrie indicated, if this structure is mostly found in American English, then this is the one I am going with. I am French, but the English I speak is American :) – Krimo Nov 22 '11 at 13:57

It's not really a matter of 'should'. In What matters most is that the merger is successful, is is indicative. In What matters most is that the merger be successful, be is subjunctive. This form of subjunctive seems to be found more in American English than in British English, where it creates a formal and rather prissy tone. An alternative that might be found in British English is What matters most is that the merger should be successful.

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The same alternative is indeed perfectly fine in American English. – Peter Shor Aug 1 '12 at 12:49

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