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Which sentence is correct:

  1. We ask that each person contribute one item to our potluck.
  2. We ask that each person contributes one item to our potluck.
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    The first uses the subjunctive mandative, the second the covert mandative (CGEL). The former is the preferred style in the US, but the latter is often used in the UK, especially in informal registers. They mean the same thing. There is the argument that the subjunctive mandative disambiguates, but those using this argument should switch to the periphrastic should alternative which does a better job ('He insists that I should go to the pub'). Commented Aug 25, 2023 at 15:35

2 Answers 2

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Think of it this way. First, here is a declarative sentence:-

  1. We say that each person contributes.

It is a simple indirect (reported) statement in which the verb is, therefore in the indicative; third person singular present indicative of the verb contribute.

  1. We ask that each person contribute. (not “contributes)

This sentence says nothing about how the world is. It says how we want it to be; are asking people to make it that way. So we use the verb in its modal form: contribute, not contributes.

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Under the grammar rules, the subjunctive mood must be used in the object clause after the word ask. Ex: The Province of Nova Scotia asked that this issue be addressed in response to cases of inadequate design and construction, and catastrophic failures. I have sat waiting for my turn and watched the barber use a blade twice before getting to me at which point i kindly asked that he pull out a new blade for me. 

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