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The Subjunctive Mood




§ 1. The Subjunctive Mood shows that the action or state expressed by the verb is presented as a non-fact, as something imaginary or desired. The Subjunctive Mood is also used to express an emotional attitude of the speaker to real facts. (A detailed treatment of this use of the Sub­junctive Mood is given in § 16.)

In Modern English the Subjunctive Mood has synthetic and ana­lytical forms.

"I wish I were ten years older," I said. (Braine) — «Хотел бы я быть на десять лет старше», — сказал я. I wish you would speak rationally. (E. Bronte) — Я хотел бы, чтобы вы говорили разумно.

§ 2. The synthetic forms of the Subjunctive Mood can be traced to the Old English period when the Subjunctive Mood was chiefly expressed by synthetic forms. In Old English the Subjunctive Mood had a special set of inflections, different from those of the Indicative.

In course of time most of the inflections were lost and the differ­ence between the forms of the Subjunctive and those of the Indicative has almost disappeared. However, in Modern English there are a few synthetic forms of the Subjunctive which have survived; they are as fol­lows: the Present Subjunctive of all the verbs and the Past Subjunctive only of the verb to be.

The Present Subjunctive  
to be to have, to know, to speak, etc.
I be he, she, it be we be you be they be I have, know, speak he, she, it have, know, speak we have, know, speak you have, know, speak they have, know, speak
The Past Subjunctive
to be   to have, to know, to speak, etc.
I were he, she, it were we were you were they were

 

I. The Present Subjunctive. In the Present Subjunctive the verb to be has the form be for all the persons singular and plural, which differs from the corresponding forms of the Indicative Mood (the Present Indefinite). In all other verbs the forms of the Present Subjunctive differ from the corresponding forms of the Indicative Mood only in the third person singular, which in the Present Subjunctive has no ending -5.

The Present Subjunctive denotes an action referring to the present or future. This form is seldom used in Modern English. It may be found in poetry and in elevated prose, where these forms are archaisms used with a certain stylistic aim. It is also used in scientific language and in the language of official documents, where it is a living form.

Wretched is the infant's lot,

Born within the straw-roof'd cot;

Be he generous, wise or brave,

He must only be a slave. (Southey)

Печальна судьба ребенка,



Родившегося в хижине с соломенной крышей;

Как бы великодушен, умен и храбр он ни был,

Он все равно будет рабом.

Though all the world be false, still will I be true. (Trollope) — Даже если весь мир будет лживым, все же я буду правдива.

The Present Subjunctive also occurs in some set expressions.

Be it so! — Пусть будет так! Да будет так!

Suffice it to say that he soon came back. — Достаточно сказать,

что он скоро вернулся.

God forbid! — Боже упаси! Сохрани бог!

Far be it from me to contradict you. — У меня и в мыслях не

было противоречить вам.

In American English the Present Subjunctive is used not only in the above mentioned cases but also in colloquial language.

Yates called the hospital and insisted that one of the doctors come to the phone. (Heym) — Йейтс позвонил в госпиталь и потребовал, чтобы кто-нибудь из врачей подошел к теле­фону.

II. The Past Subjunctive. In the Past Subjunctive the verb to be has the form were for all the persons singular and plural, which in the singular differs from the corresponding form of the Indicative Mood (the Past Indefinite).

Note. Occasionally the form was, which coincides with the form of the Indicative Mood, can be found in the singular, especially in less formal style. But were is by far preferrable.

I know I am affectionate.

I wouldn't say it, if I wasn't certain that I am. (Dickens)

The Past Subjunctive is widely used in Modern English and occurs not only in literature but also in colloquial language.

The term 'Past Subjunctive' is merely traditional as in Modern English it does not necessarily express a past action. In adverbial clauses of condition it denotes an unreal condition referring to the present or future. In other types of subordinate clauses it denotes an action simul­taneous with the action expressed in the principal clause; thus it may refer to the present and to the past.



If I were ill I should like to be nursed by you. (Bennett) — Если бы я был болен, я бы хотел, чтобы за мной ухаживали вы

I want to go everywhere, I wish I were a gipsy. (Galsworthy) _ Мне хочется всюду побывать. Я хотела бы быть цыганкой. I wished he were less remote. (Du Maurier) — Я хотела бы, чтобы он не был таким отчужденным.

§ 3. The analytical forms of the Subjunctive Mood consist of the mood auxiliaries should, would, may (might) ox shall (which is seldom used) and the infinitive of the notional verb.

Mr. Barkis... proposed that my pocket-handkerchief should be spread upon the horse's back to dry. (Dickens) — Мистер Баркис предложил положить мой носовой платок на спину лошади, чтобы он просох.

Yates wished Bing would stop thanking him, but Bing went on. (Heym) — Йейтсу хотелось, чтобы Бинг перестал благодарить его, но Бинг все благодарил.

Whoever you may be, Sir, I am deeply grateful to you. (Dick­ens) — Кто бы вы ни были, сэр, я вам глубоко признате­лен.

She lowered the blind and closed the shutters that he might not see the sun set. (Voynich) — Она спустила шторы и закрыла ставни, чтобы он не видел, как заходит солнце.

Mood auxiliaries have developed from modal verbs, which have lost their modality and serve to form the analytical Subjunctive. Still there are cases when mood auxiliaries retain a shade of modality, for instance the verb might in adverbial clauses of purpose.

Lizzie stood upon the causeway that her father might see her. (Dickens) — Лиззи стояла на дамбе, чтобы отец увидел ее (мог увидеть ее).

§ 4. In Modern English the same meaning as is expressed by the Subjunctive Mood may also be rendered by the forms of the Indicative Mood — the Past Indefinite, the Past Perfect and occasionally the Past Continuous and the Past Perfect Continuous.

In adverbial clauses of condition the Past Indefinite denotes an unreal condition referring to the present or future; the Past Perfect denotes an unreal condition referring to the past.

The room is so low that the head of the tallest of the visitors would touch the blackened ceiling if he stood upright. (Dick­ens) — Комната такая низкая, что голова самого высокого из посетителей коснулась бы закопченного потолка, если бы он выпрямился.

The noise about her was frightful, so deafening that if she had shouted aloud she would not have heard her own voice. (Cro- nin) — Шум вокруг нее был ужасный, такой оглушительный, что если бы она громко закричала, она не услышала бы своего собственного голоса.

In other types of subordinate clauses the Past Indefinite denotes an action simultaneous with the action expressed in the principal clause; the Past Perfect denotes an action prior to that of the principal clause.

He (Mr. Barkis) sat looking at the horse's ears as if he saw some­thing new there. (Dickens) — Мистер Баркис сидел, глядя на уши лошади, как будто он видел там что-то новое. I felt as if the visit had diminished the separation between Ada and me. (Dickens) — У меня было такое чувство, как будто этот визит сблизил нас с Адой.

The Past Continuous and the Past Perfect Continuous are less frequently used.

They looked as if they were fighting for their life. (Eliot) — Они выглядели так, как будто они боролись за свою жизнь. The mother's delicate eyelids were pink, as if she had been cry­ing half the night. (Eliot) — Нежные веки матери покраснели, как будто бы она проплакала половину ночи.

Note. In some grammars these forms are considered to be the forms of the Subjunctive Mood, homonymous with the forms of the Indicative Mood.


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