Grammar Guide: Subjunctive Mood

Once Thanksgiving is over, children all over the United States turn their thoughts toward Santa Claus. Santa Claus is the magical legend who brings good children gifts on Christmas Eve. In order to receive a gift from Santa, children must behave well all year. Before Christmas Eve, good children write letters to Santa, telling him what they wish to have. If the children are on Santa's "Good List," then Santa comes down their chimney to deliver their gifts.

Subjunctive Mood
In November, we discussed the other two moods in English: the indicative mood and the imperative mood. The subjunctive mood is the least common of the three. It expresses conditions that are untrue; it often follows the word if. The subjunctive also follows verbs that express doubt, requests, suggestions, and wishes (ask, command, demand, order, recommend, request, require, suggest, wish, etc.).

We form the subjunctive mood by using the simple form of the verb in the present and the regular indicative form in the past tense. The be verb in the past, however, is always were whether the subject is singular or plural.

  • The little girl asked that Santa bring her a new doll. 
  • Santa Claus requires that children be good.
  • Billy wishes that he were on the Good List.
The following is an excerpt from a song by the Carpenters. Notice the subjunctive in the chorus of the song.

Merry Christmas darling 
We're apart that's true 
But I can dream and in my dreams 
I'm Christmas-ing with you 

Holidays are joyful 
There's always something new 
But every day's a holiday 
When I'm near to you 
The lights on my tree 
I wish you could see 
I wish it every day  

That I wish you Merry Christmas 
Happy New Year, too 
I've just one wish 
On this Christmas Eve 
I wish I were with you 
I wish I were with you

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