The subjunctive is discussed briefly in the section on Tense and Mood in this tutorial. To refresh your memory, the subjunctive is the mood that conveys hypothetical or contrary-to-fact actions, as opposed to factual ones.
There are three different types of sentences we can construct in English with the subjunctive:
- “If” clauses
- If it were up to us, we would choose to go to Hawaii.
- If I were famous, I think I would be less happy.
- If you were committed to the project, it would show in your work.
- Wish statements
- She wishes (that) I were around more often.
- The parents wished (that) they were able to help their son.
- Demands, requests, suggestions, needs
- I need you to come here right now.
- Percy suggests (that) you don’t smoke that much.
- The local artist recommended that we see the exhibition.
When studying a second language, the subjunctive will likely have a distinct form whereas the English forms are often the past tense form of a verb (to be = were) or the infinitive or dictionary form of the verb without to (see, read, write). Since the subjunctive is less easily identified in English, it will be important to memorize subjunctive endings in the second language so that you can use it appropriately.