subjunctive – a statement contrary to fact, a wish, a mandative statement

In the English language, verbs are used in contexts called moods. These verbal moods are:
  • indicative – simple statement or question (Jill picks up the ball.)
  • imperative – a command (Jill, pick up the ball !)
  • subjunctive – a statement contrary to fact, a wish, a mandative statement (I request that Jill pick up the ball.)

Mandative subjunctive. So far we have examined three different ways of issuing directives – modals, semi-auxiliaries, and the imperative.The subjunctive can also be used as a directive. The term mandative derives from the Latin root for mandate, “a command or order”. The mandative subjunctive is a very distinct kind of directive and it always takes the same form.

I suggest [that he leave].
I beg [that he return the money].
I demanded [that she give me her files].
We asked [that Marsha tell the truth].
Beth moved [that the meeting be adjourned].
I insist [that you be quiet].
I require [that term papers be turned in on time].

Formulaic subjunctive. English has a small set of phrases and sayings that are so old that they still contain uniquely marked subjunctive verbs. These utterances are learned as whole pieces, often as part of religious liturgy. The expression God bless you contains a third person subject and an uninflected verb. This sentence is communicating, not a statement of fact, i.e., God blesses you, but rather a wish on the part of the speaker, i.e., I hope that God blesses you. Some remnants of the formulaic subjunctive in Judeo-Christian liturgy are:

There are formulaic subjunctives that are less tied to liturgy, but most still have a religious cast.

God save the Queen.
Heaven forbid.
God be with you.
God help him.
Be that as it may.
Long live the King.

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