Teddy's father is a prominent physician who puts a great deal of pressure on the boy to achieve at a very high level. As an only child, Teddy felt that all his father wanted from him was that he do well in school. He thought that the only time there was affection in their relationship was when he got a great report card. He stated unhappily, "He never has any time for me ─ except to check if and how I did my homework. I just want him to love me." I advised the father as follows: "Give him the quality time he needs from you.

"Teddy felt that all his father wanted from him was that he [do] well in school."

"He" is a singular noun and therefore requires a singular verb "does", so why did this author use the plural verb "do" after "he"?

  • I'm no english native speaker and I hope someone can explain it better to you. In your own text you've got a similar example "I just want him to love me". Your sentence can be rephrased "His father wanted him to do well in school" It express a desire. It's not something that he actually does. It's an infinitive form and not a present form. Surely there is a better academical accurate explanation. :-) Cheers. – RubioRic Jun 15 '17 at 6:41
  • See Is 'that' required? Does it make a difference? for a similar example – herisson Jun 15 '17 at 6:47

The author is correct. He/she used "do" after "he" because he/she is using something called the subjunctive. The subjunctive is a verb form that you most commonly use when you express a wish/desire or an hypothetical situation. In this case, it expresses Teddy's father's wish for him to do well in school.

It is also used in that-clauses with certain verbs such as demand, insist, pray, recommend, suggest, etc.

Don't worry, the subjunctive is difficult for even native speakers to wrap their heads around. Here are a few more examples:

If I were you, I would ask for permission.

I only wish that what you say were true.

They suggested that he wait till morning to travel.

I demanded that he speak to me immediately.

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  • I am a native speaker of British English and while I knew instinctively that the sentence was correct, I could not have told you why! Thanks @Phil14 – Joseph Rogers Sep 1 '17 at 22:18
  • @JosephRogers No problem! – Phil14 Sep 5 '17 at 4:44

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