I know that the following sentences are both correct with and without "should."

  1. It is strange that he should be angry.
  2. It is strange that he be angry.

How about these?

  1. It is strange that he should have failed.
  2. It is strange that he have failed.

Thank you very much in advance.

  • 1
    No, only version (3) is correct this time. It may help to re-order: (3') That he should have failed is strange. / (4') *That he have failed is strange. Jan 17, 2020 at 10:57
  • (3) is valid but awkward. (4) is not grammatical. You could also say "It is strange that he has failed." or "It is strange that he failed." Jan 17, 2020 at 11:09
  • Thank you very much for your answers. By using the indicative mood, you say like "It is strange that he has failed./It is strange that he failed," I see. I am wondering about the usage of the subjunctive mood in a case like 4. From your answers, I assume that it is obsolete, but in theory, how would that be?
    – user372345
    Jan 17, 2020 at 11:36
  • 1
    The mandative subjunctive is not obsolete. It is used after adjectives that express requirements or recommendations, etc. in impersonal constructions. For example, It is important that he be on time. I don't recall seeing it with adjectives such as strange or interesting: ? It is strange that he be angry - and certainly not with verbs other than to be: ?? It is strange that he have failed. The mandative subjunctive is usually paraphrased with should in British English.
    – Shoe
    Jan 17, 2020 at 12:40

1 Answer 1


It is strange that he be angry is an archaic use of the "present subjunctive" which is rare in modern English, and almost obsolete in this context.

It is strange that he have failed is parallel: a present subjunctive, which was presumably grammatical at one time; but unlike occasional instances of be, I don't think most people would even recognise it as an archaism.

  • I'd star them both. The present subjunctive in an extraposed subject after strange is totally weird. Jan 18, 2020 at 0:18
  • Thank you so much, Mr. Fine, for clearing this up for me! Also, thank you very much everyone for your valuable information.
    – user372345
    Jan 18, 2020 at 1:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy