Subjunctive in English -- Are There Examples Other than "Were"?

The other day I joked that most of my memories of Spanish in high school were of trying to learn and conjugate the subjunctive, an activity for which English speakers are not well-prepared.

In fact, the only example of a unique subjunctive verb conjugation I can think of in English is "were".  For example in "if I were a rich man,..."

I am sure there must be others.  I could Google it, but does anyone know any off hand?

Update:  We already have an awesome answer in the comments.  Though I am unclear how anyone that proficient in grammar can stand to regularly read this blog.  Makes me even more self-conscious about proof-reading better, which I actually have been attempting, even if the results are not obvious.


  1. jdgalt:

    I was taught that the subjunctive exists for all verbs, but is identical to the past tense except for "were".

  2. Georg Thomas:

    The subjunctive mood in English grammar includes particular verb forms that are used in certain clauses, chiefly dependent clauses, to express necessity, desire, purpose, suggestion and similar ideas, or a counterfactual condition.

    In Modern English the subjunctive form of a verb is in many cases the same as a corresponding indicative
    form, and thus subjunctives are not a very visible grammatical feature
    of English. For most verbs, the only distinct subjunctive form is found
    in the third-person singular of the present tense, where the subjunctive
    lacks the -s ending: It is necessary that he see a doctor (contrasted with the indicative he sees). However, the verb be has not only a distinct present subjunctive (be, as in I suggest that they be removed) but also a past subjunctive were (as in If I were rich, ...).

    These two tenses of the subjunctive have no particular connection in
    meaning with present and past time. Terminology varies; sometimes what
    is called the present subjunctive here is referred to simply as the
    subjunctive, and, the form were may be treated just as an alternative irrealis form of was rather than a past subjunctive.

    Another case where present subjunctive forms are distinguished from indicatives is when they are negated: compare I recommend they not enter the competition (subjunctive) with I hope they do not enter the competition (indicative).

    More and the source:

  3. kepamiller:

    It is important that we BE on time.

  4. Hawkeye:

    It's all very hazy, but I thought that "if" clauses did not really call for the subjunctive, and that the correct phrase would be, "if I was a rich man."

    Also, sorry Coyote, but "to regularly read" doesn't cut it either!

  5. Incunabulum:

    If I were a rich man

    Yubba dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dum

  6. Russ:

    Think of the subjunctive in English as a verb followed by "would". We don't use "would" too often but if its possible to insert it (like I just did with that clause) then you are in subjunctive territory.

    I taught myself fluent Spanish as a 30 year old. Let me know if you need more tips.

  7. Harry:

    Were Coyote a Wolf, he might have been a more aggressive killer of bison, cattle, and sheep, and campers using their Sterno stoves on his campgrounds. He might have eaten their carcassees with relish, assuming the Sierra Club had packed dehydrated pickles in their Eddie Bauer packs. Would that the campers had hydrated their pickles with more bottled water, before digging a latrine on Coyote's property, and had buried their waste deeper in the pine needles, before the wolves smelled them, were there any pine needles on the burnt, desiccated floor of the former forest. Then, if real wolves had been around, Coyote might have been spared his labor in picking up the pieces, if we were to imagine this hypothetical situation.

    I never even considered coyotes thought in the subjunctive before now, but then I know they are clever, and reproduce more successfully than wolves.

  8. KipEsquire:

    Had I only seen this blogpost earlier...

  9. Uncle Bill:

    Sorry, but there is nothing wrong with "to regularly read." The ban on splitting infinitives is an artificial rule introduced years ago by Latin scholars. It is literally impossible to split an infinitive in Latin, so they thought that it should not be allowed in English. But there is no real reason not to gleefully split an infinitive.

  10. Fred_Z:

    It's worthwhile looking at the German subjunctives (Yes indeed, two of them) to help understand English ones.

    I hated my teachers and my parents when I was young and stupid and they made me study this stuff. But as my parents got older they got smarter. Funny, innit?

  11. obloodyhell:

    I would do that, were it more practical for me to do so, but then, that would lead to far more subjunctive expressions that weren't called for, and, well, that just wouldn't do, would it?

  12. obloodyhell:

    (cue the Star Trek theme...)

  13. obloodyhell:

    }}}} Present subjunctive: (that) I be, (that) you be, (that) he/she/it be, (that) we be, (that) they be

    Que sera, sera....

  14. Brennan:

    It's "its," not "it's," unless it's "it is," in which case it's "it's."