I was wondering if this sentence is gramatically correct.

"If only skies like this can last longer"

closed as off-topic by Scott, David, Hellion, choster, Dan Bron Jun 30 '17 at 0:56

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  • 3
    I would switch "can" for "could" because it's subjunctive mood. – probably_someone Jun 28 '17 at 4:49
  • 1
    @probably_someone, I agree. Another option is would. – Steve Lovell Jun 28 '17 at 6:05
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It's not a grammatically correct sentence, and not just because it's missing punctuation.

The sentence is expressing a kind of wish that is contrary to present facts or reality, so it's subjunctive and that makes it tricky, grammatically speaking.

The problem is that your clause, ...skies like this can last longer, is in the indicative mood, so even though it is counterfactual, it is not subjunctive.

In subjunctive counterfactual and sentences expressing wishes, we use the past tense form of the verb in the counterfactual clause (plural past for be), but it's not really past tense - it's the subjunctive mood. Like I said, it's tricky.

If only skies like this lasted longer.

You could also say, ...would last longer, or ...could last longer, but notice that could is the past tense of can, and would is the past tense of will.

There's a bit of controversy around the subjunctive in English, but it exists despite the complications of its current form. Here's a helpful link: https://www.ceafinney.com/subjunctive/guide.html

  • @creampuff, Steve Lovell, probably_someone: please tag this with subjunctive-mood, I can't because I don't have enough rep points. – Ubu English Jun 28 '17 at 14:48

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