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Passions in Poetry

What's the Point of the Subjunctive Now?

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ilsm
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since 04-13-2008
Posts 62
UK


0 posted 04-26-2008 09:05 PM       View Profile for ilsm   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for ilsm


The subjunctive mood is dead.  Long live the indicative.  Ooops: I used the subjunctive there!

Well, apart from certain well-known expressions, it is dead.  Requiescat in Pace (that's Latin - the subjunctive's OK in Latin - and in any case, that entire language is dead).

It's dead in Britain, anyway.  In American English, it has held on - grimly - up to now, and it is even referred to as "the American Subjunctive".

Who says, "He wished he were bigger" when "He wished he was bigger" is a much more sensible statement.  No-one.  Not in Britain, anyway.  There's no need for it.  It adds nothing.  I doubt it even adds much poetically.  So let's have done with it, and use it no more.

I mean - it only exists in the verb "to be": I be/were, you be/were, he be/were, and so on.  It doesn't exist in any other verb, except in the 3rd person singular present, where the final "s" is dropped.  (In Britain, to drop the "s" could be seen as an affectation except in the most formal of writing - The Committee resolved that the Chairman decline the invitation ...)

Except ... due to the ever growing predominance of American English (at least until it morphs into Spanglish) the subjunctive is creeping back and insinuating itself everywhere - even here in UK.  Is that a good thing or not?

Ron
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Member Rara Avis
since 05-19-99
Posts 9708
Michigan, US


1 posted 04-26-2008 09:29 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

quote:
Who says, "He wished he were bigger" when "He wished he was bigger" is a much more sensible statement.


quote:
Interesting.  Maybe I'll look into Hebrew one day.  But simplicity isn't the motivation I need to learn a language.  If it were, I'd probably go for Esperanto.



ilsm
Member
since 04-13-2008
Posts 62
UK


2 posted 04-27-2008 08:26 AM       View Profile for ilsm   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for ilsm

Exactly!  How pompous was that?

(I said it was creeping back, didn't I.)
beautyincalvary
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since 07-13-2006
Posts 98


3 posted 05-31-2008 12:05 AM       View Profile for beautyincalvary   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for beautyincalvary

        * if need be
        * as it were
        * if I were you; were I you
        * be that as it may
        * (May God) bless you!
        * come Monday (Tuesday, etc.)
        * come what may
        * (May God) damn it!
        * far be it from (or for) me
        * till death do us part
        * God save our gracious Queen, God bless America, God keep our land glorious and free, God rest ye merry gentlemen, etc.
        * (May) Heaven forfend/forbid
        * so be it
        * suffice it to say
        * woe betide
        * (May) peace be with you
        * long live the king
        * the powers that be
        * albeit (a synthesis of all be it, i.e. although it be)
        * truth be told
        * rue the day
        * would that it were

        * I eat lest I die.
        * I'll place the book back on the shelf, lest it get lost.


Some examples
 
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