I am learning English and something hard (In my opinion) came up: Present subjunctive. I did a little of research and I came to know that we use this structure mainly for a suggestion, recommendation and obligation.

So far so good, but I don't know how to explain the difference between the two sentences below:

  1. "The chairman recommends that she be here on time for the daily meeting"

  2. "The chairman recommends HER to BE here on time"

If both are correct, is there any difference between them?

Thanks in advance

  • 2
    This might be more a discussion on the usage of "recommends". If you substitute "asked", then there's a distinct difference: "asked her to be here on time" means he asked her directly; "asked that she be here" implies that the request was made via a third party. Arguably with recommends, (2) is incorrect, because "to recommend someone" has a quite different meaning; but in context the meaning of the sentence is perfectly clear. Sep 18, 2018 at 20:47

1 Answer 1


Sentence (2) may or may not be ungrammatical, depending on whether recommends is allowed to take an infinitive complement, which not everyone finds allowable. I find (2) odd, but adding for to mark the complement subject makes it better:

  (2′) The chairman recommends for her to be here on time.

However, whether recommend works this way or not, desire definitely swings both ways,
with no grammaticality problems:

  (3) The chairman desires that they be here on time.
  (4) The chairman desires them to be here on time.

These mean the same thing, but only (3) is officially "subjunctive", because it's a that complement clause with an untensed verb (be in this case, which is always untensed and therefore easy to spot), and that's what Huddleston and Pullum call "subjunctive".

(4), on the other hand, like (2) or (2′), doesn't have a that complement clause, but rather a to-infinitive complement clause. This construction is very, very common, and it is not subjunctive.

You may have been confused because a great deal of what is written about the English "subjunctive" discusses what the construction means, rather than how to form or identify it.

That complements with untensed verbs are, in fact, usually used for "suggestion, recommendation, and obligation", of one sort or another. However, this does not mean that everything referring to suggestion, recommendation, or obligation uses this construction, nor that this makes things "subjunctive".

Such constructions depend entirely on which verbs one uses (desire works, but tell doesn't, for instance), and the verbs that govern this kind of complement are not that common; mostly we use other strategies. Meaning does not define the "subjunctive"; structure does.

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