Is the subjunctive mood a condition which might not be expressed through any change in the verb, or is it a description that only applies when the verb changes?

For example: "Mary ought be here soon." Subjunctive mood. But how about: "Mary ought to be here soon." Subjunctive?

  • 2
    Those are both infinitives, not subjunctives. Why would the subjunctive only be a thing if the verb changes? Any category of verbal inflection may or may not have a surface manifestation in a given paradigm. “I set it up [yesterday]” is no less a past form of “I set it up [every day]” because the verb is the same in both cases; and the imperative is mandatorily identical to both the infinitive and the subjunctive in all verbs. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 11 '14 at 1:15
  • I suppose this is new information, but I'll put it here. The reason I want to know this is that I am a debate coach, and the current Public Forum topic is "The right to be forgotten from the internet ought to be a civil right." Can you, @JanusBahsJacquet tell me if that sentence is subjunctive? I could explain the whole argument I want to run but it's complicated. – Eric Strauss Nov 11 '14 at 16:45
  • No, it’s not a subjunctive. It’s an infinitive complement to be of the auxiliary verb ought. You could argue that ought to [infinitive] is semantically similar to a jussive-hortative subjunctive in function; but it is not one in form, regardless of whether you delete the to. It’s the same as in can go or will go, where go is also an infinitive, not a subjunctive. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 11 '14 at 16:49
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    If I were to argue similarity of function, how would I describe that function? @JanusBahsJacquet – Eric Strauss Nov 11 '14 at 16:51
  • I would just say they’re functionally similar, though formally distinct. But then I don’t know the first thing about debate teams, having never grown up in the States. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 11 '14 at 16:52

"Mary ought be here soon."

There is no subjunctive form in that sentence.

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    Not only that, it's ungrammatical in standard English. – Peter Shor Nov 10 '14 at 21:59
  • @PeterShor I know the Ngrams don't show it, but I have heard people say things like 'he ought tell him'. But I don't think it is the subjunctive - if there is such a thing! – WS2 Nov 10 '14 at 22:39
  • WS2: People speaking various dialects of English say all sort of things. Many of them are ungrammatical in standard English. – Peter Shor Nov 11 '14 at 4:01
  • The current PF topic in debate is: "The right to be forgotten on the internet ought to be a civil right." Is that subjunctive? 2WS2 and @PeterShor Would it be subjunctive if it said "ought be" instead? Does it make a difference? Apparently, btw, that "ought be" is an American thing mostly, not so much in Britain. – Eric Strauss Nov 11 '14 at 16:47
  • @EricStraussThere is no subjunctive in your sentence. ought is a fringe member of the modal verbs. Some of these are used as in alternative constructions to those containing subjunctive forms, but they are not themselves subjunctive forms. – tunny Nov 11 '14 at 16:54

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