Past Subjunctive Mood

Past Subjunctive Mood :

Subjunctive in grammar is a verb form or a set of verb forms to express doubt, wishes, situations that do not actually exist.

In "If I were you", the verb "were" is in the subjunctive. Note : The Subjunctive is the name of a verb form (e.g) were, she be, he return.

The SUBJUNCTIVE is the name of a special group of verb-forms.

1. I were…
2. She be…
3. He return…

They are used in a few cases to talk about events which are not certain to happen or imagine might happen or want to happen.

If I were rich, I would work much better.
It is important that the patient be warned before it is too late.

The forms of the subjunctive are as follows.

Present Subjunctive Mood :

The verb BE :

1. I be…
2. We be…
3. You be…
4. He be…
5. They be…

Other Verbs :

1. I speak…
2. We speak….
3. You speak…
4. He speak…
5. They speak…

Past Subjunctive Mood :

The Verb BE :

1. I were…
2. We were….
3. You were…
4. He were…
5. They were…

Other Verbs :

1. I spoke…
2. We spoke…
3. You spoke…
4. He spoke…
5. They spoke…

Other verbs :

All present and past subjunctive forms are the same as the infinitive.

1. I go….
2. You go….
3. He go….

The subjunctive form WERE is often used instead of WAS after IF and I wish…..

It can also be used after words like SUPPOSE when they have a similar meaning to it. WAS is also possible in these cases.

I wouldn't mind if she weren't so impolite.
I wish it were a holiday today. (It was not a holiday.)

We can use were to + infinitive in the IF - clause. This makes a future possibility less probable. It can also make a suggestion more tentative.

What would you do if war were to break out now?
If you were to move your chair a bit to the right we could all sit down.

Note : The above sentences are a special form of conditional sentences in which the subjunctive WERE is used with an infinitive and this is sometimes inverted in a literary style.

In a literary style the structures,

Were I / you / he / etc…
Should I / you / he etc…
have I / you / he etc…

are used instead of…

If I / you he / etc. were…
If I / you / he / etc. should…
If I / you / he / etc. had…

(1) Were he my son, I could suggest steps, I should consider it profitable to take.

(2) Had I realised, what you intended, I should not have wasted my time, trying to explain matters to you.

(3) Should you change your mind, let us know.

(If I were you) I should….

(We often advise by making a conditional sentence with the expression If I were you.)

If I were you I should get that vehicle repaired.
I shouldn't bother if I were you.

Note : In this structure, we usually use should, not would, as the conditional auxiliary.

I should be a bit more careful if I were you.

WERE is always used in the expression.

1. As it were (meaning the same so to speak)
2. She's a sort of South Indian Sri Devi as it were.

The subjunctive is the same whether the sentence is present or past.

1. We insist that a meeting be held as soon as possible.
2. The committee recommended that the company invest in new property.
3. It is essential that every child have the same educational opportunities.
4. He said it was important that every member send his subscription by the end of the week.

In British English, these Structures are not usual. Instead of the subjunctive, we more often use should + infinitive.

1. We insist that a meeting should be held as soon as possible.
2. The committee recommended that the company should invest in new property.

Note: If you should see Hari, give him my regards, (you might see him.)

But the structure….

"It + subject + verb" is often replaced by should + subject + verb."

Should you see Hari, give him my regards.

Note : SHOULD is very common in sentences about the past with in-case.

1. I took some papers with me, in case.
2. I should have time to do some writing.

There are some fixed expressions containing subjunctive.

The commonest are…

1. God save the king and queen.
2. Long live the king.
3. Be that as if may.
4. Heaven forbid.

In very formal language (ie) legal documents BE is used after IF and WHATEVER.

If any person be found guilty…
Whatever be the reason…

Study the following examples.

1. I wish I knew his name. (I am sorry I don't know his name.)
2. I wish I were a millionaire. (I am not a millionaire)
3. He orders me as if I were his servant. (I am not his servant)
4. If I started now, I would be in time. (But I can't start now.)
5. It is time I did it. (I haven't done it)
6. I would rather you went by air. (I should prefer you to go by air.)
7. They would rather you paid them cash. (You haven't paid them cash.)

Past Subjunctive Mood

Past Subjunctive Mood To HOME PAGE

The Grammar Index

Past Subjunctive Mood - Past Subjunctive Mood
Share this page:
Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.