Definition 2023


subjunctive mood



subjunctive mood (plural subjunctive moods)

  1. (grammar) Mood expressing an action or state which is hypothetical or anticipated rather than actual, including wishes and commands.
    If John were here, he would know what to do.
    If this be liberty, then give me death!
    I wish that I were there.
    I want that he go.

Usage notes

Subjunctive mood is used much more in some other languages, such as Spanish and Latin, than it is in English. Apart from the third-person singular form without the suffix -(e)s (I want that he go), modern English has only one verb that has mutually distinguishable indicative and subjunctive forms be.

  • be (subjunctive present, all persons except for archaic second-person singular)
I suggest that that measure be taken.
  • beest (archaic second-person singular, subjunctive present)
Stephano!—If thou beest Stephano, touch me, and speak to me; for I am Trinculo:—be not afeared—thy good friend Trinculo. -- 1611, William Shakespeare, The Tempest
  • wert (archaic second-person singular, subjunctive past)
If thou wert pure and upright; surely now he would awake for thee, ... -- 1611, The Bible, Job 8:6 (King James (Authorised) Version)
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. -- 1611, The Bible, Revelation 3:15 (King James (Authorised) Version)
  • were (first- and third-person singular, subjunctive past)
If John were here, he would know what to do.

See also the conjugation at be.