Monday, August 11, 2008

The Subjunctive

Levels of Distractibility: Who cares? = *. Some people will be distracted from your meaning: = **. Many people will be distracted from your meaning: = ***.

Question: What on earth is the "subjunctive"?

Answer: The subjunctive means "contrary to fact." "I wish I were...." "As if he were...."

"I wish..." and "As if..." are almost always followed by "were."

The problem is with "If." If "if" means contrary to fact, use "were": "If he were here, we'd know the answer."

If "if" is a statement of fact, use the singular past tense, "was." "He asked if she was going on vacation this month."

If you're not sure, write around it: "I wish I could go with you" instead of "I wish I were going with you."

Rating of Distractibility: (**). You'll have to use some fast thinking, if you're using the subjunctive when speaking.

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