It is essential that [some parameter] be not reset during the day. (1)

It is essential that [some parameter] not be reset during the day. (2)

Which one is the correct form? I do know the easy way out, that is:

It is essential that [some parameter] is not reset during the day. (3)

But which is the correct form provided I want to stick with the subjunctive?

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    option (2), "not be" is correct.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Sep 18, 2014 at 15:24
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    Ngrams shows that somewhere around 1950, the preferred order changed from be not reset to not be reset. Some comments. (1) I checked the hits, and they almost all are subjunctives. (2) They are also almost all American. I have no idea which order is preferred in the U.K. (although maybe they prefer that the subjunctive not be used). Commented Sep 18, 2014 at 15:29
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    @Kris: you replied when I was halfway though writing my comment. I believe I've addressed your question in it. It's hard to believe that these are two constructions meaning two different things when all the pre-1920 subjunctive uses are be not done and almost all the post-1960 uses are not be done. What do you perceive as the difference between them? Do you have any evidence for this? Commented Sep 18, 2014 at 15:35
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    @PeterShor: I think we Brits prefer the subjunctive to be avoided, rather than that the subjunctive not be used. Commented Sep 18, 2014 at 17:36
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    Sometimes, @DanBron, the comments are more interesting than the question OR the answer. This is one of those times. Commented Sep 18, 2014 at 22:17

1 Answer 1


As many proposed in comments, and given that we live many years after 1960, I would also say "not be". :-)

EDIT: My response actually meant that people who use a language know what form to use intuitively. Language evolves and if at some point in time the majority of English speakers tend to say "not be" rather than "be not", that's what the grammar book will adopt.

The question regards the acceptable form of the negative subjunctive. Examples can be found e.g. here:


and here:


Both sources agree on "not be".

  • Apologies for the joking mood. That cost me some reputation! The date is important. Thou must agree that I cannot say "thou" instead of "you"! I am posting a link which describes the negative subjunctive, I am sure grammar books have similar examples.
    – ppapakon
    Commented Sep 25, 2014 at 5:46

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