Subjunctive Tenses

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Subjunctive Tenses

Postby MHLS678 » Mon Sep 16, 2013 7:07 pm

I would appreciate some clarification on the possible tenses for the subjunctive. In Unit 1, Lesson 10 of Diogenes: Chreia, the table of tenses for different moods states that the subjunctive may only appear in the present, past, or past perfect. However, in the answer key (p. 244 in the student guide) for the Lesson 10 exercises, the verb "will adopt" from the sentence "I believe these principles will be of use to you if you will adopt them." is classified as "subjunctive, future." Which is correct? This brings up a related question: Must all verbs that follow the subordinator "if" be subjunctive? If not, what is the best way to determine mood in cases where the form of the verb does not make it clearly apparent?
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Re: Subjunctive Tenses

Postby Carolyn » Tue Sep 17, 2013 5:36 am

That's an excellent question. The incorrect bit here is the answer key. The verb HAS to be in the future tense -- that's the only tense formed with 'will'. And by the same logic, it's in the indicative mood. Not all verbs that follow 'if' are in the subjunctive, then. If the sentence were "I believe this principles will be of use to you if they be adopted", then the verb would be in the subjunctive present.

Can you give an example of a sentence in which the verb form doesn't make the mood clearly apparent?
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Re: Subjunctive Tenses

Postby MHLS678 » Tue Sep 17, 2013 4:34 pm

Thank you for the helpful response. As I have been thinking through examples, I have come up with a corollary question: Though not all verbs following "if" are subjunctive, are all present, past, and past perfect verbs following "if" subjunctive?

In terms of verbs whose forms do not make the mood clearly apparent, I had in mind the common form indicatives/subjunctives in persons other than third. Since these are identical except for the being verb, I was puzzling through how we determine whether a particular usage is indicative or subjunctive, particularly when they appear in subordinate clauses. Is the determination based entirely on the speaker's or writer's intent (i.e. whether to express an actual or hypothetical event)? If so, I am wondering whether this often results in ambiguous constructions.

Though there are probably better examples, here is one I've been pondering: "If I visited here before, I do not remember it." Do we assume "visited" is a past subjunctive because it is in an "if" clause? The statement seems to leave open either the possibility that the visit was real or that it was hypothetical. But perhaps from the speaker's point of view, it is hypothetical because he does not recall it as an actual event. What is the guide for determining mood in these sorts of cases?
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Re: Subjunctive Tenses

Postby admin » Sat Nov 23, 2013 9:28 am

I am sorry, I did not see this post till just now.

Yes, there is ambiguity with subjunctives, and I am not sure I can make anything more clear than how you put it in your question.

"If I visited here before, I do not remember." If I visited is in subjunctive, yes, I would say so because the person is holding it out as a possibility that may or may not have been real. In that case the grammatical form does not change, since we're in the past tense, and you would have to be in Latin or Greek to see the difference in form, so in some ways it doesn't matter in the mechanical production of the sentence, though it would matter in the parsing of the sentence.

"If I were rich, I would contribute more to your cause." This one is more pertinent, perhaps, since the verb does change or could change, since I could write "If I was rich...".

My honest answer is that subjunctive use is not that clear in English, and with the gradual change of language over time, I would argue that people have all but abandoned the subjunctive.

I will ask my daughter who is majoring in Attic Greek if she can shed more light on issues of subjunctive use as they relate to English and Greek use of it, to see if I can elaborate on this, but so far, I am not sure I can add more to what you asked.

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