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When should I use the subjunctive mood?

2 examples first:

1.It is announced that the accounting class of the 3rd and 4th hours on the morning of this Wednesday be cancelled

2.It is expected that everybody and each household be on guard

Someone told me this kind of examples above appears in the textbook as strict sentences to be taught in the classroom, so is that right for the usage of be

Meantime I looked up the word be at thefreedictionary.com and found one piece of interpretation says that way:

Archaic Used with the past participle of certain intransitive verbs to form the perfect tense: "Where be those roses gone which sweetened so our eyes?" (Philip Sidney).

So is there any connection between the archaic usage & the examples above? BTW, how to understand the short phrase "the 3rd and 4th hours". Many thanks!

  • 2
    Welcome to ELU. Your examples exhibit the mandative subjunctive. It is also treated in this question. It is used very little outside of US formal writing (although the essay at this link observes that it "has made a considerable comeback in British English in recent years, probably under American influence.") "Hour" in this context probably means "class period". Nov 3, 2012 at 11:58
  • @StoneyB: I have to disagree. It is reasonably common in U.S. speech, as well. For example, I don't think I expect to hear "I recommend that he goes to a specialist" from an educated American. (Although I probably wouldn't notice it if I did, so maybe I'm wrong about this.) Nov 3, 2012 at 12:12
  • 2
    @StoneyB I cannot find the mandation in sentence 1, if it is merely "announced" that classes are cancelled. Would it not be usual for the verb to be something like "required" or at least "declared" to make the final "be" appropriate. As written the first sentence looks to be somewhat tortured syntax by a non-native speaker.
    – Fortiter
    Nov 3, 2012 at 12:35
  • 2
    And the example from the Free Dictionary seems to not to be in the subjunctive at all. I'd say it's an archaic use of be for the indicative, as is "What fools these mortals be", from Shakespeare, combined with the use of be instead of have as an auxiliary verb for the motion verb to go (so two different archaic usages). Nov 3, 2012 at 13:26
  • 1
    The first example comes from what appears to be a Chinese ESL website, and contains several phrases that a native speaker of English would be highly unlikely to say. "It is announced that the accounting class of the 3rd and 4th hours on the morning of this Wednesday be cancelled. Further notice will be made for its makeup." Nov 3, 2012 at 14:12

1 Answer 1


To summarize the results in the comments:

Sentence 1 exhibits an improper use of the subjunctive be in a clause complementing announced. It should be replaced with an ordinary indicative.

Sentence 2 exhibits an ordinary use of the mandative subjunctive, which is experiencing a comeback in BE, possibly under the influence of AE formal use. It is often replaced with a construction using should.

The quotation from Sidney exhibits a different, non-subjunctive use of be; it is obsolete and not productive in contemporary written or spoken English.

  • Both sentences are grammatically correct. Announced need to be interpreted contextually; the first sentence is also semantically proper. An announcement is also a "directive".
    – Kris
    Nov 3, 2012 at 15:18
  • 1
    Example #1 is correct if ye be pyratical.
    – MetaEd
    Nov 3, 2012 at 15:33
  • @MετάEd Aye, therre be many a Devon man in Zouth Chinaw Zea. Nov 4, 2012 at 1:56

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