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When & How to Use the Subjunctive in English

Instructor: Lindsey Hays

Lindsey has taught Elementary Education, Spanish immersion, and ESL. She has a MS in Elementary Education with a BA in Spanish.

The subjunctive form is used when we talk about our hopes and dreams. In this lesson, we'll look at the subjunctive form, when we use it, and some examples.

Hopes, Dreams, and Wishes

Wouldn't it be nice to have a genie grant you three wishes? We would know for sure that the genie would make our dreams come true. But since genie's aren't real, when we want something we have to ask. We don't know for sure that someone will make our wishes come true or not. In this case, we use the subjunctive form.

In this lesson, we'll look at the subjunctive form and two different ways we can use it to ask someone to do something.

What Is the subjunctive?

We use the subjunctive form when the end result is uncertain. We use the subjunctive form:

  • To suggest, advise, or request something
  • To make a recommendation
  • To desire, wish, or hope with an unknown outcome
  • To command

The subjunctive form is the base tense of the verb. It is in the infinitive form but without, ''to''. Instead of, ''to play,'' we use ''play''.

We use it when the subject of the sentence changes.

  • I hope that you come to our party.

''Come'' is in the subjunctive tense. It is in the base form of the verb. It describes a hope that something will happen, without knowing if it would or not. Notice how the subject changes from ''I'' to ''you''. The outcome is unknown, because the person may or may not get to come to the party.

  • He advises you to finish the assignment on time.

''Finish'' is in the subjunctive tense, since the subject changes from ''he'' to ''you''. It describes a request with an unknown outcome. The person may or may not finish the assignment on time.

The subjunctive could be used in the negative form as well:

  • I recommend that you not text in class.

If there is any room for doubt that an event will occur or that a person will do what you expect or think, we use the subjunctive verb.

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