Do I need to add ‘that’? Is it neccesary?

She demands that he go to the mall.

She demands he go to the mall.

Which one is proper?

I thought that he was tired.

I thought he were tired.

There are some instances where subjunctive ‘that’ is used - possible. Is ‘were’ preferred or ‘that’? Please advise.

  • 1
    No, "that" is optional in your first example. But your third example is not a subjunctive, though "that" is optional. Your fourth example is ungrammatical -- "was" is required here.
    – BillJ
    Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 19:31
  • Based on what I’ve studied from multiple sources, thought is a non-factual. The "past subjunctive" (irrealis) form were is also used by some as an alternative to the backshifted indicative was following if or whether in indirect speech or thought. Example: He sometimes wondered whether he were being affected by the diet . . . (Iris Murdoch: The Good Apprentice, 1985). What I’m not sure about is its use in modern English. Do you know?
    – MeGrammar
    Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 22:51
  • "Thought" may be non-factual, but that doesn't mean that "I thought he were tired" is subjunctive -- it's not, and in any case it's ungrammatical". The ill-named past subjunctive "were" that you allude to typically occurs in conditional constructions like "If I were a rich man ...".
    – BillJ
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 7:22

2 Answers 2


Whether or not you use the subjunctive in English depends on more than whether something is "non-factual". Certain verbs can take the subjunctive and others can't, even though their meanings may seem similar.

The use of the subjunctive after verbs like wonder is slowly fading from the English language. However, the subjunctive has never been used after the verb thought. See this Google Ngram for confirmation.

For another illustration of this, Shakespeare wrote:

I wonder if the lion be to speak.


'Tis thought that Richmond is their admiral;

with the subjunctive after wonder and the indicative after thought.


You could say, with perfect grammatical correctness, "She demands he go to the mall."

If you did so, in the UK at any rate, you would be faced with a mixture of incomprehension, ridicule, and a bit of admiration. That use of the subjunctive is now antique. Personally I quite like it, hence the admiration, but most modern users of the language would regard it as odd.

  • Let me know when grammaticality catches up with idiomaticity. I'll keep using 'She insists that he goes to the mall' when previous context forces the 'demand' sense (or the won't-be-gainsaid sense). Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 22:19
  • Correct me if I am wrong. Is it not that when one uses non-factual (subjunctive) word one must remove the ‘s’? Third person word should not be used in such context. Is it not to be written like ‘She insists that he go to the mall’?
    – MeGrammar
    Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 22:33
  • To my ear, omitting the 'that' sounds British or rather elite for an American (lol funny that a shortcut would feel more elite) .. but this answer makes it seem elite on the old side of the pond too. I also love the subjunctive tense and think our throwing it aside says a lot about how our culture is less contemplative and analytical by nature - "what's the takeaway" .. not "let's examine the hypothetical outcomes here"
    – Tom22
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 0:08
  • It's not at all antique in the U.S. Commented Aug 26, 2018 at 12:03
  • @PeterShor Very interesting. I did say 'in the UK...'
    – JeremyC
    Commented Aug 26, 2018 at 13:44

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