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Do you know – or care about – the subjunctive?

September 26, 2011

To be honest, I only found out about the subjunctive a few years ago, which means there were many years before that when, as a subeditor, I was blissfully ignorant. But now that I know about the elegant subjunctive, I like to use it. Probably not so much in my spoken communication, or on Facebook, where I tend to adopt a more casual approach to language – the Blue Mountain bogan* lives within, still– but certainly in my professional life.

The subjunctive refers to mood, which appeals to my romantic sensibilities as it belongs to the world of imagination, wishes, what ifs … it’s indicative of the hypothetical, which can, at times, be more appealing than the present. The subjunctive is what dreams are made of. Something my four-year-old daughter delights in, often.

I wish I were a fairy, then I could fly.

If only I were able to fly, then I could play with my friend, the butterfly. 

The softer ‘were’ is much more pleasant to the ear than the clunky ‘was’.

If you, like me, appreciate its subtle beauty, its softness, and would like to use it at times, just remember that a sentence that starts with ‘if’ or ‘I wish’ is likely to be the subjunctive mood.

* Fuckin’ ay!

PS Blog posts shall return to a weekly timetable shortly, after I have completed my tax return for the year. Until then (end of October), I have dropped to fortnightly posts.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 26, 2011 23:16

    Hi Rachel,

    That’s for this interesting post. In “it’s softness”, the “it’s” is possessive so it should be apostrophe-free.

  2. September 26, 2011 23:21

    Haha, now I’ve made a mistake. “That’s” should be “Thanks”. This situation is known as “Muphrey’s Law”, an adage that states that if you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written. The name is a deliberate misspelling of Murphy’s law.

    • September 27, 2011 22:46

      I had a good laugh when I read your comments, Marion. Not only because Muphrey’s Law rings so true to me, but also because I hit ‘publish’ last night when I meant to hit ‘preview’. I debated whether I should look over what I’d written anyway and then repost. I decided against it but in the back of my mind I imagined it had a mistake, and the mistake I imagined was the one you just pointed out—writing ‘It’s’ instead of ‘its’. Too bloody weird. I don’t think I’ll ever learn to trust my intuition. Thanks for pointing it out.

  3. September 27, 2011 21:59

    I couldn’t remember what ‘subjunctive’ was until I read this (selective memory loss!) but yes, indeed, I use it and wouldn’t be without it.

    • September 27, 2011 22:49

      Well, you’re one step ahead of me. I didn’t even know what it was until a couple of years ago. 😉

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