Subjunctive Mood

Choose the correct word:

1. If I (was/were) you, I wouldn’t bury that cat until it’s dead.

2  I wish I (was/were) rich.

3  If she (was/were) in town, we didn’t see her.

4  It is essential that  she (is/be) on time.

  1. I move that the project (is/be) terminated.

Answers: 1. were  2. were  3. was  4. be  5. be

The subjunctive mood has almost entirely disappeared in English, but it survives in some constructions.

Here are the conjugations of the verb to be  in present and past subjunctive:


Present                                                       Past

I be                     we be                              I were                   we were

you be                you be                             you were               you were

he, she, it be       he, she, it be                    he, she, it were     they were


The past subjunctive is used in if clauses that are contrary to fact and after verbs expressing wishes, regret, or longing. The present subjunctive is used after requests, commands, and motions.

1.” If I were you” is clearly contrary to fact.

  1. I wish I were rich (I’m not). The subjunctive is also used in such sentences as “If only she were here.”
  2. If she was in town, we didn’t see her. The subjunctive is not used here because she might have been in town, so the statement is not necessarily contrary to fact.
  3. This sentence would probably be better recast as “She must be on time.” But the phrases it is essential, it is crucial, etc. require the present subjunctive.
  4. All verbs in clauses following motions are in the subjunctive.


The present subjunctive also survives in certain set expressions such as “Long live the Queen!”

One thought on “Subjunctive

  1. Hello, I’m intrigued by the image at the top and the message, ‘There are 4 forms of the subjunctive mood’ but only 3 examples. Could you possibly provide the fourth? Especially that now I’ve googled the said sentence and there’s nothing there that would confirm this statement. I’m really curious and looking forward to hearing from you 😉


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