Subjunctive Mood :
The subjunctive mood is used in dependent clauses that do the following: 1) express a wish; 2) begin with if and express a condition that does not exist (is contrary to fact); 3) begin with as if and as though when such clauses describe a speculation or condition contrary to fact; and 4) begin with that and express a demand, requirement, request, or suggestion. A new section on the uses of the Conditional should help you understand the subjunctive.
- She wishes her boyfriend were here.
- If Juan were more aggressive, he'd be a better hockey player.
- We would have passed if we had studied harder.
- He acted as if he were guilty.
- I requested that he be present at the hearing.
The subjunctive is not as important a mood in English as it is in other languages, like French and Spanish, which happen to be more subtle and discriminating in hypothetical, doubtful, or wishful expressions. Many situations which would require the subjunctive in other languages are satisfied by using one of several auxiliary verbs in English.
The present tense of the subjunctive uses only the base form of the verb.
- He demanded that his students use two-inch margins.
- She suggested that we be on time tomorrow.
The past tense of the subjunctive has the same forms as the indicative except (unfortunately) for the verb to be, which uses were regardless of the number of the subject.
- If I were seven feet tall, I'd be a great basketball player.
- He wishes he were a better student.
- If you were rich, we wouldn't be in this mess.
- If they were faster, we could have won that race.