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”...
It is not an exception. This is the subjunctive mood, being used to express a wish. See “Third person requests with a main-clause subjunctive” in the Wikipedia article on “English subjunctive”, which gives “God save our gracious Queen” as a specific example.
You may think of it as short for “May God save the Queen” or “Let God save the Queen” if that helps ...
For those who are a little confused by Barrie England's answer...
She suggested that he go to the cinema. and She suggested that he goes to the cinema. are both correct, but they have different meanings.
Here's how she might suggest that he goes to the cinema:
ALICE: Where do you think he goes every Thursday evening?
JANE: Hmm ... well ... cinema ...
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".
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 ...
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) ...
The difference between the two is one of style, were(n't) being more formal than was(n't).
The authors of 'The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language' (Huddleston and Pullum) go so far as to say that this verb form isn't subjunctive at all, preferring to describe it as irrealis. As they say:
This use of were is highly exceptional: there is no other ...
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, ...
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 ...
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:
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 ...
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 ...
It’s because save is subjunctive. In particular, it’s an example of the ‘formulaic subjunctive’, found in other fixed expressions such as Heaven forbid and come what may. It is used in God Save The Queen to express a non-factual concept: we cannot assume that God saves The Queen, but we express the hope that he will.
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;
I suspect the answer is "Neither of them". There are three possible clauses in this situation, and they have subtly different meanings.
If we were to agree, do you think we could start next month? is a remote hypothetical ('I know it's unlikely, but just suppose').
If we are to agree... would normally preface some sort of demand, like ...you will have to ...
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 ...
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 ...
Old English most certainly had a subjunctive. In fact, it had two, present and preterite, and they were inflected for person and number.
English now has three kinds of subjunctive (perhaps two, see below), the mandative, the formulaic and the were–subjunctive. The mandative is seen in sentences such as ‘I demand that he go.’ The formulaic appears in fixed ...
Neither of your two questions makes sense as written, and I do not know what the intent is. For one thing, I don’t understand why they are questions; they do not look like such to me.
For another, the formulaic “be they X or Y ”, using present subjunctive and inversion as it does, is of a somewhat elevated register which may not be appropriate for all ...
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), ...
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 ...
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, ...
In formal speech and writing, counterfactual clauses beginning with as if and as though take imperfect subjunctive, which means the were form in the case of to be, the only verb in English specifically marked for that tense. This the same tense you use with wish. For example,
It looked as if it were already done.
I wish it were done already.
She dressed ...
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, ...
(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 ...
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 ...
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:...
I think what has happened is the following:
Most English speakers would say the clause as If I'd lost you (however they might write it), and thus should pronounce it as
But the stressed /-dlɔst-/ syllable in /ɪfaydlɔstyu/ is very hard to pronounce.
The normal result of (1) and (2) is insertion of an epenthetic shwa between /d/ and /l/, ...
The only one that is correct in the scenario you present is #1:
If Jeff is still alive today, he is 30 years old.
The is in the first clause corresponds to the is in the second.
I'd say that numbers 2 and 3 (If Jeff is still alive today, he will be 30 years old and If Jeff is still alive today, he would be 30 years old) would work in speech, but not ...