I've found the following on the internet (https://www.jstor.org/stable/43344096) :

(1). If he comes, I shall go.

(2). If he come, I shall go.

Here, the first sentence is in indicative mood, and the second one is in subjunctive mood.

What's the difference in meaning between these two sentences?

Edit: Though the second sentence seems ungrammatical to me, I have also found these in a school grammar book, "The Best Guide for Madhyamik English" by A. K. Chatterjee. Therefore, I would like to know what the native speakers think of these.

  • 1
    In order for the second sentence to be grammatical, it needs to be if he should come … May 24 '20 at 4:08
  • The source is : jstor.org/stable/43344096 I've also found these in a school grammar book : "The Best Guide for Madhyamik English" by A. K. Chatterjee. May 24 '20 at 9:48
  • However, I looked at the abstract and I did not see the fragment sentence which you said you found on the Internet, i.e. If he come, I shall go Please clarify if the example(s) comes from the study cited or from the textbook "Madhyamik English".
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 24 '20 at 10:00
  • Google produces only 7 results for "If he come, I shall go" My vote to close this question remains.
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 24 '20 at 10:02
  • 1
    That particular construction (if clause with infinitive) has been obsolete in American English since about 1800. And gods only know what nonsense has been put into purported English textbooks destined for non-native speakers. May 28 '20 at 1:31

Consistent with its non-factual status, the if... verb may be in the plain form, marking the subjunctive construction. Subjunctive in conditionals is rare, especially with verb-forms other than be. It belongs to the formal style and verges on archaic. (CaGEL p1000)

In the first sentence if he comes is an open conditional: his coming is not viewed as unlikely. In the second if he come also falls into the category of open conditionals, and similarly the speaker would not think his coming unlikely (CaGEL p745).

So, it seems there is little difference in meaning, but a clear difference in style: the first being idiomatic present-day English, and the second being formal or even archaic.

To my ears, the second sounds absolutely unacceptable in any context whatsoever.

  • 2
    Definitely archaic. Sep 21 '20 at 12:10

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