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He made the best use of the opportunity that presented itself, even if he had to yield to the demand that he faces the local media. He, of course, deftly skirted the issues raised.

— The Indian Express, June 26, 2023

Verbs like 'demand' triggers the subjunctive form in a that-clause used as a subordinate clause, but why not in this case? It should be face not faces. Is it a mistake or there is some grammar behind it?

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    Don't look to this publication for standard mainstream English. I'm guessing the writer shied away from three repetitions of to, but most native Anglophones would have no problem with ...even if he had to yield to the demand to face the local media. Or just go with the very slightly "starchy" subjunctive form ...the demand that he face the local media. The tensed form faces looks clumsy there, to me. Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 12:38
  • See usage chart for a demand that he abstain. The 'tensed' form abstains is too uncommon to even show on the chart. Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 12:42
  • @FumbleFingers Thankyou Fumble for your advice but I am kind of stuck in a situation where I can't switch to a different newspaper as atleast this publication presents a balanced view, whereas others seem to run a kind of agenda or ideology. I think(as Edwin Ashworth says) he should have used 'should' in place of the indicative form.
    – RADS
    Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 12:56
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    @RADS: Well, I guess you can't have everything! But it needn't be a problem so long as you remember that the constructions you read there might not be "mainstream" English. Some aspects of "Indian English" (overuse of continuous verbs, as in I am having Covid) stick out a mile to mainstream Anglophones, but you probably know that anyway. I think many other differences turn on the fact that IE has preserved features of Victorian English that the mainstream has left behind, so they're more "dated" than "wrong" or "non-idiomatic". Noticeable differences to most of us, but not "serious". Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 16:44

2 Answers 2

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Though I usually avoid the 'mandative subjunctive'

  • We insist that he pay for his crimes
  • We demand that he be punished
  • The tour guide recommends that each child keep close to his or her parents

(I'm a Brit), preferring say the indicative

  • We insist that he pays for his crimes
  • We demand that he is / he's punished
  • The tour guide recommends that each child keeps close to his or her parents

or the periphrastic should construction

  • We insist that he should pay for his crimes
  • We demand that he should be punished
  • The tour guide recommends that each child should keep close to his or her parents

in the example above I'm not at all keen on the use of the (present simple) indicative. The setting in the past makes it untenable ('even if he had to yield to the demand that he faces the local media'). The past simple can also be used as an (indicative) alternative to the mandative subjunctive, as Tim kindly points out, and here it would give

  • He made the best use of the opportunity that presented itself, even if he [did have] to yield to the demand that he faced the local media.

I'd use periphrastic should (my usual choice, always acceptable to all [if a little formal] and best at disambiguating) here:

  • He made the best use of the opportunity that presented itself, even if he had to yield to the demand that he faces the local media.

I'd say the original is unacceptable, though

  • He has made the best use of the opportunity that has presented itself, even if he does have to yield to the demand that he faces the local media.

would not cause me to reach for a red (correcting) pen.

The general acceptability of using the indicative where many prefer the 'mandative subjunctive' has been discussed several times on ELU, for instance at What is the subjunctive mood? In general, it would be fair that opinion on acceptability is divided, many in the US requiring the subjunctive, while many in the UK feel it often sounds stilted.

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even if he had to yield to the demand that he faces the local media.

This is historically ungrammatical, and should be 'face'.

'I demand (that) you face the media!'
*'I demand (that) you faces the media!'

If you take it out of the clause and construct a sentence from it, it becomes more apparent. Let's boil it down to what it is, really, an imperative at its heart, which is made obvious by the invocation of 'demand' in the original.

'(You) Face the media!'
*'(You) Faces the media!'

The same conclusion is reached if you view this through the lens of the mandative subjunctive:

Answer: The correct usage is ‘John recommends that Mary talk to the supervisor’, but I am not sure that it matters much.

Of course, I still use 'were' in the subjunctive and there is a mass movement to ignore it in the vernacular, so the same issue is at stake. My personal feeling is it's a the sign of split between literate and aliterate writers. But as a general rule, language should be described more than prescribed.

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    Pronouncements like "This is historically ungrammatical, and should be 'face' " have been shown in previous posts to be over-prescriptive. The authors of CGEL acknowledge the fact that many articulate Anglophones. particularly in the UK, prefer to use say 'The tour guide recommends that each child keeps close to his or her parents'. Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 14:15
  • It's not an imperative at heart. Nope. Not at all. Imperatives can't take first person subjects, or third person pronominal subjects. And conversely, negative imperatives use don't , whereas don't is impossible in a subjunctive mandate. Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 15:34
  • There is no split between literate and aliterate readers. Aliterate readers are a subset of literate readers. Do you mean "illiterate" perhaps? Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 15:38
  • @EdwinAshworth have no objection to your remark, but it should be noted that articulate and literate are not the same. The former is a characterization of intelligence, and the latter of tradition. Plus, there is some utility using distinctive phraseology to indicate circumstance. We could abandon all declension and conjugation, but that only serves to constrict the semantics by placing anaphora at the fore of grounding meaning.
    – J D
    Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 15:53
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    @RADS So, whether or not the question that adhering to the traditional form of using an altered tense in the presence of the mandate in question is appropriate is a question of politics, not strictly, objective fact. You'll have to come to your own mind when linguistic rules set out by grammarians is excessively oppressive or excessively woke. When in doubt, appeal to the guidelines of a specific language community. For instance, psychologists rely on the prescriptions of the APA Style Guide, the University of Chicago style guide is popular, the AP has it's own, as does Stephen Pinker.
    – J D
    Commented Jun 28, 2023 at 16:45

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