Meaning of subjunctive in English:


Pronunciation /səbˈdʒʌŋ(k)tɪv/

Translate subjunctive into Spanish


  • Relating to or denoting a mood of verbs expressing what is imagined or wished or possible.

    Compare with indicative

    ‘If on the other hand, a logophoric pronoun/long-distance reflexive and subjunctive mood are deployed, it indicates that the speaker does not take the responsibility for the truth of the report.’
    • ‘In English, such verbs have largely replaced the subjunctive mood, and three kinds of modality can be distinguished for them.’
    • ‘French also has the option (which exists also, but very marginally, in English) of the embedded clause appearing in the subjunctive mood.’
    • ‘In English the indicative mood is used to make factual statements, the subjunctive mood to indicate doubt or unlikelihood, and the imperative mood to express a command.’
    • ‘But the real conundrum in the characterization offered above lies in the presumed subjunctive tense.’


  • 1A verb in the subjunctive mood.

    ‘Because I have been using English naturally for the best part of sixty years I have stopped thinking about the construction of sentences (gerunds, subjunctives, conjunctions and prepositions, and all that).’
    • ‘Milton's speech here is full of subjunctives and conditionals which reinforce the dream's and the muse's role of masking the direct activity of the speaker.’
    • ‘Again, as in the case of muncho, haiga, the present subjunctive of the verb haber, is also an archaism still found in many dialects of Spanish.’
    • ‘Outside we few, we happy few conservative intellectuals, use of the subjunctive in spoken speech has pretty much died out.’
    • ‘Today we're going to go over the subjunctive and indicative as most of you didn't seem to understand that.’
    1. 1.1the subjunctiveThe subjunctive mood.


… if I were you; the report recommends that he face the tribunal; it is important that they be aware of the provisions of the act. These sentences all contain a verb in the subjunctive mood. The subjunctive is used to express situations which are hypothetical or not yet realized, and is typically used for what is imagined, hoped for, demanded, or expected. In English the subjunctive mood is fairly uncommon (especially in comparison with other languages such as French and Spanish), mainly because most of the functions of the subjunctive are covered by modal verbs such as might, could, and should. In fact, in English the subjunctive is often indistinguishable from the ordinary indicative mood, since its form in most contexts is identical. It is distinctive only in the third person singular, where the normal indicative -s ending is absent (he face rather than he faces in the example above), and in the verb ‘to be’ (I were rather than I was and they be rather than they are in the examples above). In modern English the subjunctive mood still exists but is regarded in many contexts as optional. Use of the subjunctive tends to convey a more formal tone but there are few people who would regard its absence as actually wrong. Today it survives mostly in fixed expressions, as in be that as it may; God help you; perish the thought; and come what may


Mid 16th century from French subjonctif, -ive or late Latin subjunctivus, from subjungere (see subjoin), rendering Greek hupotaktikos ‘subjoined’.