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Tworek  1  Bobbi Tworek Dr. Erica Benson English 325.001 6 May 2008 Your Wish is My Command: The Subjunctive Debacle Inflected languages possess an interesting element known as mood, which is defined as a form or forms of a verb that indicates certain expressions of that verb, be it a statement of fact, a command, conditionality, et cetera. In the English language, there are said to be five principal moods: indicative, imperative, interrogative, optative, and subjunctive (“Mood” OED def. 1a). While the first four remain stable, within the last two hundred years there has risen a certain level of uncertainty regarding the last of these five. Having become increasingly indistinct in inflection from the other moods, the subjunctive, which denotes “an action or a state as conceived (and not as a fact) and therefore used to express a wish, command, exhortation, or a contingent, hypothetical, or prospective event”, has been questioned in its current prevalence of usage (“Subjunctive” OED def. A1b). This uncertainty is understandable; human emotional complexities often blur wishes and commands, doubt and certainty, and reality with the unreal. Perhaps most notably, without a distinct inflectional ending, the subjunctive is easily confused with the imperative and the indicative moods in phrases such as “I hope that you plan to take out the garbage soon”. The person being addressed may answer, “that’s nice” and subsequently do nothing, which may result in a clarifying, “I said, Do it!” response. Both parties have a viable argument. Thus, without a prominently distinct inflection, many grammarians are led to question or even deny its prevalence and/or continued existence altogether (Jespersen 1905, Fowler 1926,

Subjunctive Paper

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