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----- Original Message -----
From: "Chris Bates" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, October 27, 2003 8:30 PM
Subject: English Subjunctive


> I was thinking, is the english subjunctive really a subjunctive? Its
> just, subjunctive has always been described to me as indicating doubt,
> whereas the english subjunctive doesn't indicate doubt but that
> something is definately contrary to fact (the speaker is in no doubt at
> all if he uses the subjunctive form). Is there a separate name for this?
>  Also, I'm not sure the subjunctive is disappearing... a lot of people
> say it is, but if anything it seems like its just changing form. Some
> people now say things like "If I was you..." instead of "If I were
> you..." but... in "If I was you..." where was replaces the subjunctive
> form were, they're using the past tense to refer to a present situation
> (a non existent situation, but still refering to the present) so it
> seems to me that the present subjunctive isn't dying so much as being
> merged with the simple past... because the contraryness to fact is still
> being indicated, just in a different way.
>  Anyway, that's what's been bugging me recently.

As far as I know, a Subjunctive merely indicates something that is not
proven to be true, or is, as yet, untrue.  It's a very vague term, actually.
I think the word for it is 'irrealis'.

For instance, taking an example from Jack and the Beanstalk(and why not?, I
ask.)

"Be he alive or be he dead, I'll grind his bones to make my bread."  Here
the present subjunctive is used, indicating that his aliveness or deadness
is not known.

It can also be used as a kind of imperative - "Your kingdom come".  That
indicates that the kingdom has not come, and so the subjunctive is used.