The problems of the Subjunctive Mood in English

  Е.А. Корнеева «Пособие по морфологии английского языка» Москва, «Высшая школа» 1974 Л.Л. Иофик, Л.П. Чахоян «Хрестоматия по теоретической грамматике английского языка»

The problems of the Subjunctive Mood in English

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Federal Agency on education

State educational institution of vocational training

College of Optics and Electronics











Diploma paper




«The problems of the Subjunctive Mood in English»











Krasnogorsk 2007

Федеральное агентство по образованию по образованию

Государственное образовательное учреждение среднего профессионального образования

Красногорский оптико-электронный колледж














Дипломная работа




«Проблемы сослагательного наклонения в английском языке»








Красногорск 2007




1. The Subjunctive Mood?

1.1 Foreign linguists speculations about the Subjunctive Mood

1.2 The Subjunctive Mood from the point of view of the representatives of the Russian linguistic school

2. The main cases of the use of the Subjunctive Mood in English

3. The use of The Subjunctive Mood in the works of English and American writers







There are many controversial and not thoroughly investigated points in the English grammar. Nevertheless, in my opinion one of the most difficult and not clear both from the point of view of its definition and description and from the point of view of its practical implementation in speech is the subject of the Subjunctive Mood. Even the name of this grammatical category seems ambiguous in term of its being approached and characterized by different outstanding linguists in our country and abroad.

No wonder this problem couldnt but arise my curiosity and language interest. I have made up my mind to consider the material compiled on this problem in different sources to clear up the point for myself and to have a better idea about the usage of the Subjunctive Mood in speech.

I will learn more information about points of views of English and Russian grammarians. It is very interesting for me to know how English linguists understand problem of The Subjunctive Mood and what way Russian ones do it. I will also introduce the most important point of my diploma paper the usage of the Subjunctive Mood. I want to learn in what cases we should use the Subjunctive Mood.

Thus the object of my paper is the Subjunctive Mood itself.

The subject of my diploma paper is the Subjunctive Mood in the works of foreign and Russian grammar schools as well as the main cases of the Subjunctive Mood usage.

The aim of my diploma paper is to compare different approaches to the problem of the Subjunctive Mood with the purpose of investigating the material available for me about the Subjunctive Mood from English and Russian sources.

My diploma paper consists of three chapters: in the 1st chapter I consider different approaches to the Subjunctive Mood understanding both in our country and abroad. In the 2nd chapter I present the main cases of the Subjunctive Mood use and perform the results obtained. There is a conclusion too. To write my diploma paper I used the works of the outstanding English grammarians, such as: H. Sweet, G.O. Curme, O. Jespersen and Russian scholars: V. Kaushanskaya, V. Vinogradov. You can see the names of their works in the list of literature, on page 25, and the information from Internet.

The 3d chapter represents my practical contribution into the problem of the Subjunctive Mood. In this chapter I analyze the use of the Subjunctive Mood by some English and American writers and draw the conclusion based on the material collected.

The literary sources are given as supplementary material after Bibliography.



1. The Subjunctive Mood?


  1. Foreign linguists speculations about the Subjunctive Mood


As we shall further see there is no unity on the Subjunctive Mood among the world famous foreign grammarians. I would like to dwell on the views of the most outstanding linguists.

By the moods of a verb H. Sweet in his work «A new English Grammar (Part I)» understands grammatical forms expressing different relations between subject and predicate. Thus, if a language has special forms to express commands as distinguished from statements, we include the forms that express command under the term «imperative mood». Thus in English come! is in the imperative mood, while the statement he comes is in the «indicative» mood.

In English the only inflectional moods are the indicative and subjunctive. But the inflections of the English verb are so scanty that we need not be surprised to find that the distinction between indicative and subjunctive is very slight. The only regular inflection by which the subjunctive is distinguished from the indicative in English is that of the third person singular present, which drops the s of the indicative (he sees) in the subjunctive (he see). In the verb to be, however, further distinctions are made: indicative I am, he is, he was, subjunctive I be, he be, he were, although in the spoken language the only distinction that is still kept us is that between was and were. Consequently the sense of the distinction in function between subjunctive and indicative has almost died out in English, and use the subjunctive were only in combination with other mood-forms, the other subjunctive inflections surviving only in a few special phrases and constructions, such as God, save the Queen!, where the subjunctive expresses wish, being thus equivalent to the Greek optative.

The few distinction that English makes between fact-statements and thought-statements are mainly expressed, not by inflections, but by auxiliaries (periphrastic moods), and by peculiar uses of tense-distinctions. The following are the auxiliary forms:

  1. The combination of should and would with the infinitive the conditional mood.
  2. The combination of may and its preterite might with the infinitive is called the permissive mood.
  3. The combination of the finite forms of the verb to be with the supine is called compulsive mood.

We use tenses to express thought-statements in the hypothetical clauses of conditional sentences, as in if I knew his address I would write him; if it were possible I would do it. In the latter example the hypothesis is shown not only by the preterite tense, but also by the subjunctive inflection, which is really superfluous. When a thought-statement is expressed by a tense in this way, H. Sweet calls it a tense-mood. Were in if it were is a subjunctive tense-mood.

As we see, in some conditional sentences all three ways of expressing thought-statement are used.

G.O. Curme in the work «A Grammar of the English Language» considers moods as the changes in the form of the verb to show the various ways in which the action or state is thought of by the speaker.

There are two moods:

  1. Indicative Mood. This form represents something as a fact, or as in close relation with reality, or in interrogative form inquires after a fact.
  2. Subjunctive Mood. The function of the subjunctive mood is to represent something, not as an actual reality, but as formed in the mind of the speaker as a desire, wish, volition, plan, conception, thought; something with more or less hope of realization, or, in the case of a statement, with more or less belief, sometimes with little or no hope or faith.

The various meanings may be classified under two general heads the optative subjunctive and the potential subjunctive. The optative subjunctive represents something as desired, demanded, required. The potential subjunctive marks something as a mere conception of the mind, but at the same time represents it as something that may probably be or become a reality or on the other hand as something that is contrary to fact.

H. Whitehall in the work «Structural Essentials of English» says that Mood (or mode) establishes the speakers or writers mood about the actuality of a happening. The indicative mood indicates that what he says must be regarded as a fact, i.e., as having occurred or as occurring; the so-called subjunctive mood implies that he is doubtful or uncertain about its occurrence.

Although the subjunctive is gradually dying out of the language, English is rich in devices for expressing ones psychological moods toward happenings that are imaginary.

Our apparatus for expressing mood suggests that in the use of verb word-groups, the speakers or writers mental attitudes are of great importance.

Many grammarians enumerate the following moods in English, etc.: indicative, subjunctive, imperative, infinitive, and participle. O. Jespersen as it can be seen from «The Philosophy of Grammar» considers that infinitives and participles cannot be coordinate

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