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Why does this require the subjunctive (because of the use of "that"):

"It was always inevitable that this virus become endemic"

whereas the following requires the indicative or the infinitive (because of the use of "for")?

"It was always inevitable for this virus to become endemic."

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  • This is the way the subjunctive works. You use it after that ... phrases, but you use the infinitive after for ... phrases. "It is necessary that he come," but "It is necessary for him to come." There's nothing special about "inevitable" — lots of adjectives behave the same way. Oct 6, 2021 at 2:50
  • Don't ask me why this is the case ... if I knew, I'd be writing an answer and not a comment. Oct 6, 2021 at 2:52
  • That sounds wrong. It was always inevitable that this virus would become endemic sounds right.
    – tchrist
    Oct 6, 2021 at 3:09
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    "Inevitable" does not licence the mandative subjunctive. However, it sounds OK with a should mandative complement, as in "It was always inevitable that this virus should become endemic", or with non-mandative "would", as in "It was always inevitable that this virus would become endemic".
    – BillJ
    Oct 6, 2021 at 8:13
  • @LukeHutchison I didn't change anything. You used "become" in your example.
    – BillJ
    Oct 7, 2021 at 6:41

1 Answer 1

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I would challenge the premise. Typically, the subjunctive follows phrases that are exhortative. "It is imperative that you come." "I suggest that he study for the exam." "It is essential that you be prepared." I'm not sure that "it is inevitable that" + subjunctive really makes sense. Even if it did, in modern English, many people would just use the indicative: "it is essential that you are prepared."

Honestly, in this particular example, I think the phrasing "it was always inevitable that this virus would become endemic" is much more natural than what you've suggested.

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  • Are you American? I am not. The subjunctive is used far more widely in British and British colonial English than in American English. The first example I gave is really the most correct way to say the phrase in New Zealand English. (We were also taught to prefer the passive voice, and that the Oxford comma is incorrect.) Oct 6, 2021 at 2:19
  • @LukeHutchison I am indeed American. I suppose you will have to get other Commonwealth speakers to give their opinions, in that case. Even in the examples I did give, they sound a little pretentious, by American standards.
    – Casey
    Oct 6, 2021 at 2:20
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    @LukeHutchison My understanding is that British people often use the indicative instead of the subjunctive. See for instance bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-58698895 "The Taliban media office insisted the BBC team travelled with an armed Talib bodyguard". Oct 6, 2021 at 2:38
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    Yes, Americans use the subjunctive in many cases that sound off to Brits. lexico.com/grammar/when-to-use-the-subjunctive
    – Phil Sweet
    Oct 6, 2021 at 10:16
  • @LukeHutchison I'd say the indicative-where-some-use-the-subjunctive is far more common colloquially in the UK than in the US. The boss insists that he goes. The periphrastic-should construction is probably also more common in formal contexts (and disambiguates most powerfully) The boss insists that he should go. // The passive certainly has its place but should not be slavishly employed. // There are instances where the Oxford comma is needed to make things clear, but there are instances where omitting it is required to make things clear. All these have been discussed on ELU. Oct 6, 2021 at 15:13

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