LITERARY DISCOURSE: Mood: Subjunctive

Introduction
As an essential element of College Writing and other forms of literary activities, the SENTENCE continues to dominate our discussion. Yes, we need to look at SENTENCE once again in another form: expression of “non-fact” situations. This is to enhance our understanding of sentence types, increase our ability of sentence usage, and minimize our risk of sentence misapplication. Indeed, the situation calls for the discussion of SUBJUNCTIVE MOOD.

Learning Outcomes
By the end of this discussion, fellow students and readers should be able to increase their ability to:

  • Understand Subjunctive Mood
  • Comprehend Types of Subjunctive Sentences and
  • Apply Subjunctive Sentences correctly.

Subjunctive Mood
Traditionally, the subjunctive belongs to a category in grammar called mood. It is largely indicated by differences in verb forms from the indicative mood. We hope learners and readers remember our discussion of the first sentence types – the indicative/declarative, imperative, etc. The indicative expresses a fact or sometimes a condition. The imperative expresses order, and the subjunctive a wish, a purpose or a condition. The basic mood in English is the indicative mood or the “fact mood.” This is usually marked in the 3rd person present simple tense by the “s” morpheme. An example is “Marzuq loveS his mother.” In contrast, the subjunctive is a non-fact mood, expressing the hypothetical, the doubtful, the desirable, the obligatory among others. In subjunctive, the verb does not obey the rule of concord. For instance, for the verb “ to be” in the past of the subjunctive, the form “ were” is used in the singular case, as in “I wish I WERE rich.” This implies that in subjunctive sentences Number, Person, and Concord characteristic of normal sentence construction are not considered.

Types of Subjunctive Sentences
Subjunctive sentences, in Modern English, are of three types. These are Formulaic Subjunctive, Mandative Subjunctive, and Were – Subjunctive.

Formulaic Subjunctive
In this category, the verb in the subjunctive sentence does not take the morpheme “s” or any other grammatical indicator for the third person singular in present simple tense. Below are some examples:

  • Allah BLESS us. [Instead of Allah BLESSES us].
  • BE that as it may. [Instead of that IS as it may].

These operate as fixed idiomatic expressions, and are few in number. They are called Formulaic Subjunctives because of their formulaic characteristics.

Mandative Subjunctive
These are made up of clauses beginning with “that” and serving as objects of verbs such as “ask”, “command”, “suggest”, “recommend”, “insist”, “demand”, “propose”, “require”, and “request.” In these clauses the infinitive “be” is neither conjugated to any tense nor followed by any auxiliary verb such as “should”, “must”, and “ought to.” Below are examples:

  • I propose THAT the misbehaviour of Azinpaga BE reported to the police.
  • We demand THAT our constitutional rights BE respected.

It is worth mentioning that such expressions are more common in American than in British English. They are also used in formal contexts. Alternatively, these subjunctive expressions can be rephrased (in indicative mood) as in:

  • I propose that the misbehaviour of Azinpaga should be reported to the police.
  • We demand that our constitutional rights must be respected.

Were –Subjunctive
In this type, the dominant feature is the use of “ were” even in singular cases where “ was” is expected. In most instances, such expressions begin with words such as “ If”, “As if”, “As though”, “I wish.” Some examples are:

  • I wish I WERE a little boy (expressed by an elderly woman).
  • Naporoo wishes he WERE President of Ghana (stated by a District Chief Executive).

Conclusion
Dear learner, it is important to note that the subjunctive sentence is one of the functional sentence types expressed in Traditional Grammar as mood. Its ‘hostile’ relationship with Number, Person and Concord in sentence construction explains our decision to give it a special treatment (in this write-up). Let us recall the other functional sentence types: Declarative, Imperative, Interrogative, and Exclamatory .

References
Greebaum, S. (1991). An introduction to English grammar . Harlow: Longman.

Huddleston , R., & Pullum , G. K. (2002) . The Cambridge grammar of the English language . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press .

Halliday, M. A. K. (2004). An introduction to functional grammar . (3rd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Harmer, J. (2001). The practice of teaching English language. (3rd ed.). England: Longman.

Quirk, R.& Greenbaum, S. (2000). A university grammar of English. London: Pearson Education Ltd.

Quirk , R., Greenbaum, S., Leech , G., & Svartvik, J. (1991). A comprehensive grammar of the English language . Harlow: Longman .

By Abubakar Mohammed Marzuq Azindoo, Coordinator of Students and University Relations, University of Applied Management (UAM), Germany – Ghana Campus, McCarthy Hill, Accra and Tamale

Email: [email protected] Tell: 0244755402


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