I'm sure we'd all rather I became a bit more self-sufficient.

Using became feels right, but I would appreciate anyone who could explain what's going on grammatically here. I think become is in the subjunctive, so maybe most correctly I should say

I'm sure we'd all rather that I become a bit more self-sufficient.

Is that strictly necessary? And regarding my original construction: am I wrong to feel so right?

  • Why earth should it be just one tense and not the other? They mean different things. Use the right one for the right purpose. "rather I became" is not the same as "rather I become," though the former is the more common. – Kris Aug 22 at 13:07
  • 1
    That's a good point. Do you mind explaining to me the difference? – Sam Aug 22 at 13:16
  • Possible duplicate of "would rather" + subject + past subjunctive This thread covers perhaps a more clearly related example, but was itself closed as a duplicate. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 22 at 13:38
  • CED only licenses the [different referent (subject) plus past simple clause] variant, but in the US the 'mandative subjunctive-or-is-it' is usually preferred. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 22 at 13:47
  • It's not subjunctive since "would rather" does not license subjunctive clauses. "Would rather" can take a finite clause, either present tense with "become" as in your second example, or past tense with the modal preterite "became" as in your first example. That" is optional, but (I believe) usually omitted. Incidentally, "would rather" is in competition with "would prefer", also taking a finite clause complement – BillJ Aug 22 at 15:27

It's a great question, and you may get a lot of rather technical answers. My quick take: use either; they're both OK, though I prefer "become" because "become" is the subjunctive here (well, it's often called that, though some argue English doesn't have a subjunctive). Using "became" turns the sentence into a conditional, which would be fine if you used "if" instead of "that": "I'm sure we'd all rather [if] I became a bit more self-sufficient."

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