Verb: Category of Mood – Part 4

July 3rd, 20121:07 pm


Verb: Category of Mood – Part 4

Verb: Category of Mood
Verb: Category of Mood – Part 2
Verb: Category of Mood – Part 3

Synthetic forms of the Subjunctive, identical with Infinitives and Im­perative forms, differ syntactically – they are used in subordinate clauses of condition, purpose and concession (Kim is capable of anything lest his girlfriend not break up with him, Be she ever so polite with everyone, she would have many friends); object clauses following a verb or a noun with the meaning of advice, order, supposition (Jane suggests that the decision be made after lunch); emotionally imbued sentences (It is vital that the deci­sion be made right now). In these sentence-patterns the non-past Subjunc­tive is optional and can alternate with the Indicative. This alternation, how­ever, is not indifferent to style, the Subjunctive being decidedly more formal than the Indicative verb.

The synthetic Past Subjunctive is much more restricted: in present-day English it is represented by the verb to be that lakes on the form were. This Past Subjunctive form is distinctive in the first and third persons singular. It is used in subordinate clauses of condition and comparison (She knows little as if she were new in the subject). However, in colloquial speech the Past Subjunctive were often alternates with the Indicative was. Yet, with the use of inversion for hypothesis, the Subjunctive is obligatory: Were she less ambitious, she would never have become a movie star.

Traditionally, synthetic Subjunctive forms are considered to be of lim­ited use, characteristic of American English and occurring only in the func­tional style of official papers or in set expressions (Be it so! God forbid! Suffice it to say that…). The fact that these older forms are preserved in American English, while being replaced by new ones in British English, only supports the linguistic rule that it is the central regions where changes are born, whereas the periphery tends to keep to old grammatical patterns and forms. Though, of course, the statement that the American English-speaking community forms nowadays the “periphery” should be taken with a certain reserve. Some scholars believe that if the tendency to use the syn­thetic Subjunctive forms as in / demand he pay me back, It is unbelievable that he pay you back is long-term, then it is likely to result not so much in revival of the Subjunctive as in erosion of the third-person inflection in the Indicative by accustoming people to forms like he pay. This would be the natural continuation of the historical process, because in the Present Indefinite all inflections, except the third person singular -s, have been lost and it would be quite natural to expect the process to continue, to have only one form all through the tense (7 pay, you pay, he pay, we pay, they pay).

Analytical forms of the Subjunctive Mood are represented by the con­structions should/would/may/might with the Infinitive without the particle to. The modal verbs may be followed either by the Simple Infinitive or by the Perfect Infinitive. The Simple Infinitive is used to denote an action performed at the moment of speaking or an action following this moment; therefore the action is regarded as hypothetical or possible. The Perfect In­finitive is used to express a past action. Semantically, the action is hypo­thetical and impossible, contradicting to the action that actually took place.

The Subjunctive forms distinguish between Passive and Active Voice. Consequently, it may be stated that almost all verbal categories are represented in the Subjunctive, the fact that makes it different from the Impera­tive Mood and brings it closer to the Indicative.

The Subjunctive is a stumbling-block for linguists in that here they face the problem of interpretation of grammatical forms, homonymous to tense forms of the Indicative Mood but used to express non-fact in subordinate clauses of condition and comparison and some other types of sentences (cf. If you had been in London, we could have had dinner together; I wish you had been in London last June!). Linguists inclined to favour formal criteria claim that had been should be treated as a form of the Indicative Mood whose meaning changes depending on certain syntactic distribution. This point of view, consequently, dismisses any claims to homonymy of verb forms of the Subjunctive and the Indicative. The opponents prefer semantic analysis of the given phenomenon. They believe that combination of such different meanings can hardly be possible within a grammatical form, which leads them to consider these cases as those of homonymy.