I am trying to understand subjunctive mood/mode. Would the following sentence be subjunctive? If I ever meet a sycophant, I will walk away.

  • No, 'subjunctive' is a clause type distinguished by the use of a plain form verb, e.g. "It is vital [that I be kept informed]"; "I insisted [that he meet her]". Semantically, subjunctives are characterised by invoking the concept of compliance. In the first example, compliance is said to be vital, and in the second I insisted on compliance.
    – BillJ
    Mar 16, 2018 at 11:56
  • 'The subjunctive is a specific verb form. It usually expresses something that you wish for, or a hypothetical rather than actual situation: If only I were ten years younger.'ODO.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 16, 2018 at 13:17
  • No, Nigel, the subjunctive is a clause type that uses a plain form verb, just as imperatives and infinitivals do. "Were" clauses are not subjunctives, but a special mood form called 'irrealis', an untidy relic from an earlier system. Semantically, subjunctives invoke compliance, as in the two examples I gave.
    – BillJ
    Mar 16, 2018 at 13:28
  • 1
    That's the CGEL terminology. They use "subjunctive" strictly for what's often called "the present subjunctive", based on the infinitive, which is the present stem in most cases; it's a construction limited to subordinate clauses and governed by specific predicates. The so-called "past subjunctive" is the one that CGEL calls "irrealis". Both are relics of past English inflections, which are still there, and both still subjunctive, in German. That's why talking about "subjunctive" is confusing; there are too many ways to use the term, which is marginal at best in English. Mar 16, 2018 at 14:09
  • 1
    Indeed it is entirely sensible and logical. It just isn't standard, that's all. Mar 16, 2018 at 20:28

2 Answers 2


The subjunctive mood is used to express a thought that is a wish, a suggestion, or non-factual.

There is a lot of information about this on the Internet, so I am not going to give an extensive explanation or provide examples, but if your sentence were to be recast in the subjunctive mood, it would read:

If I were ever to meet a sycophant, I would walk away.

See also http://www.grammar-monster.com/glossary/subjunctive_mood.htm http://www.englishteachermelanie.com/advanced-english-grammar-the-subjunctive-mood/


No. It's future conditional. Subjunctive: if I ever were to meet a sycophant, I would walk away. Props to Bill and Nigel, who must be academic linguists. Hoping this answer is helpful too, Brad

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