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SYNOPSIS: Sometimes it must be “if I was”, but at other times it can be “if I were” — and for some speakers in those cases, perhaps even must be “if I were” in their idiolect. Sentences with the subordinating conjunction if normally contain two clauses, each with its own subject and verb. The question asks what to do about the past-tense be verb in the “if”...


21

Were is the plural past tense form of be, used here in a counterfactual conditional idiom construction that is given various names, including "subjunctive", which often apply to other European languages, though not to English. In fact, however, tense is not what you need to know here. Tense only has to do with time -- past (was/were) and present (am/is/are) ...


21

The 'will' in "Your will be done" is a noun. One's intention or decision; someone's orders or commands. And the 'be' is the imperative form of the verb 'to be'. So, taken together, "Your will be done" means "May your intention be carried out".


19

This is a use of an old way of phrasing things called a concessive subjunctive clause, as explained in this answer. You can tell because of the inversion of subject and verb and the switch from a present-tense verb form. These days you are most likely to see concessive subjunctive clauses in fossilized phrases like this: Come hell or high water, I’m still ...


19

I think "If there were your help" sounds wrong for reasons that are completely unrelated to the use of the past subjunctive/irrealis were. A test: do you think "If there was your help, I would finish quickly" sounds any better? What about "There was your help, so I was able to finish quickly"? Both of these sentences sound bad to me. I think the problem ...


16

In response to the originally posed question, John Lawler wrote a somewhat amusing, (pedantically) accurate, but highly confusing comment, one which I feel deserves translation and further elaboration into something more resembling an actual answer. John said: A useful and concise conception of the English subjunctive mood is that it is a mythical beast, ...


16

Two things. Lest is always followed by the subjunctive mood. ODO's example is he spent whole days in his room, wearing headphones lest he disturb anyone Your example doesn't do this, nor can it. Lest is a conjunction and means "to avoid the risk of" (ODO), and generally that phrase can be slotted in, adjusting the verb from the subjunctive mood: he ...


15

What is called the "subjunctive" or the "present subjunctive" is in fact just a simple untensed variant of normally tensed that-complement clauses. Unlike real subjunctive systems in languages like German or Spanish, this construction appears - only in subordinate complement clauses,   never in main clauses, or other kinds of subordinate clauses; - ...


15

The construction used here is help + object + bare infinitive. Here are two more examples: Can you help me fix my bike? I helped my father cut the grass. An equally grammatical equivalent to the above construction is to include the to before the bare form: Can you help me to fix my bike? I helped my father to cut the grass. It is clear that ...


15

This is a form of the subjunctive licensed by the preposition phrase on (the) condition. Many nouns, such as the noun condition can take content clauses using subjunctive constructions. Usually these clauses indicate the desired outcome of some implicit or explicit command or instruction. Here are some more examples of the subjunctive following the noun ...


13

You're confusing traditional Latin grammar terminology with English grammar terminology, and with modern linguistic terminology, as well. Mood, Voice, and Tense were traditional inflectional categories of Latin verbs. I.e, every verb in Latin was inflected (marked uniquely) for some mix of mood, voice, and tense. Latin had six tenses (by a strange ...


12

The short answer to your question is "mood", like the indicative. John Lawler comments that "English has no subjunctive mood". I do not entirely agree with him, although I agree with him that in Latin, at least, subjunctive is a mood. It probably depends on your country and your age! I am aged 64 living in London, UK. Most of the people I talk to in an ...


11

I am not a linguist, so please understand that this is only the best I can do, and may be more long-winded than necessary. Grammatical mood is the quality of a verb that conveys the writer's attitude toward a subject. Verb moods indicate a state of being or reality. Commonly known moods are indicative (states reality), interrogative (states questioning), ...


11

As FumbleFingers noted, keep is acceptable. As to which is 'more right', if it is possible to have degrees of correctness, that is a question of style rather than grammar. In the antediluvian days of my youth, "I insisted that he kept..." could mean only that he kept ... at some past time, and at some later time I insisted on the truth of this. "I ...


11

It's an archaic construction, inverting the verb and the subject, and using the (nearly obsolete) subjunctive form of the verb, to convey a conditional. It survives much more in the past (where, apart from were, the subjunctive is the same as the ordinary past). So: Had I known ... = If I had known ... Had he seen it, ... = If he had seen it, ... Should you ...


10

The rule is, if your hypothetical scenario suggests something that isn't true, use were: If I were stronger, I'd break your arm! (I'm not stronger.) If I were a flower, I'd go crazy! (I'm not really a flower, though I've been called a pansy before.) If my room were clean, it would be a first. (My room isn't clean.) If it may be true, use was: If this ...


10

Even were he not to care himself. . . is an alternative way of saying Even if he were not to care himself . . . The stress in the clause would naturally fall on not. Another example is Were he to work harder, he might make a success of his business instead of If he were to work harder, he might make a success of his business. It is a rather literary form, ...


10

(AmE, non-linguist) It's a little tricky to say would is the past form of will, as will is an auxiliary verb that doesn't conjugate normally. It does work with will as the wish meaning. Here is part of the problem, I think. Will for the future is correct. I will go to MIT in 2 years.. If someone says I would go to MIT someday without further elaboration, I ...


10

"he rot" is the present subjunctive in this sentence. So the form is that of the bare infinitive. Another example, "Murder, though it have no tongue, will speak."


10

This is about as silly an argument as I have ever encountered in Shakespearean scholarship — even sillier than the celebrated Impediment of Adipose. Jonson's compliment is a fairly pretty one: “Despite your lack of a Classical Education (like Mine), your work commands the admiration of the Classical Masters.” But the reading Ingleby urges makes no sense at ...


9

Colin Fine provided an answer to your question in a comment: None. The category of "past subjunctive" exists in the current English language for the single word were. If it were not for that word, we could simplify everything by saying that the simple past can be used for a counterfactual conditional as well as for a past. Unfortunately that word ...


8

The first form "If you were to go home, you would feel better." should be grammatically correct, but it sounds rather strange to me. The second form "If you went home, you would feel better." is grammatically absolutely correct and also expresses the right thing. It is a so-called Conditional Clause of Type II which means that the event in question (i.e. ...


8

You can place the script in the head or body as you like. The script will behave as if it was/were located exactly where you put the script tag in the document. * The version with the modal preterite "was" is grammatical, and is acceptable. As to the version with the irrealis "were": Since the matrix clause has present tense, that irrealis "were" version ...


8

This is an example of a subjunctive. The subjunctive form of the verb is frequently used in mandative clauses (certain clauses which contain the content of an order, desire, suggestion). The subjuntivee uses the plain form of the verb. The same form as the bare infinitive. The Original Poster's example I be would be grammatical in the following sentences: ...


8

The insistence of the first sentence is qualitatively different from the second. In the first, he is insisting that something should happen in the future. This requires the form of the verb which can conveniently be called the subjunctive. In the second, he is insisting that something is true in the present. This requires the normal indicative form, which ...


7

Even were he not to care himself and it's rephrased version Even if he were not to care himself are both examples of using the subjunctive voice in English. This kind of subjunctive is most commonly used in if clauses, and it indicates that the scenario is contrary-to-fact.


7

OK, piece by piece. Most people say I wish I could, I wish you would. Can we use I wish I can, I wish you will? No. *I wish I can and *I wish you will are both ungrammatical sentences. As pointed out. I'd like to know what the main differences are between the usage of can/will and could/would when wishing. Simple enough. It's the interaction of two ...


7

The subjuntive is quite common in the US (and required for proper grammar in formal contexts). It's taught in our public schools and most of us are pretty adept at using the subjunctive for conditionals/suggestions/hypotheticals, even in casual conversations. The rephrased example in the indicative mood (i.e., "I suggest that he implements ...") sounds ...


7

Answering the question very simplistically: no. There are not too many subjunctives in the paragraph quoted. In fact, there are only two—one of the subjunctives you highlighted is not a subjunctive, but a construction containing an auxiliary verb in the imperative + the main verb in the infinitive: If it please(subjunctive) the king, let(imperative) it ...


7

The answer to your question is: because. More seriously, the subjunctive in English is largely a vestigial organ. There are no particularly hard and fast rules that regulate verb usage or tense in English in the way that a Romance language would require. In other words, in effect there really is no true subjunctive in English, but rather several ways of ...


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