The Subjunctive

CHAPTER 9.  THE SUBJUNCTIVE

1. Uses of the subjunctive

In modern English, the Simple Present Subjunctive is most commonly used in formal commands and requests. In the following examples, the verbs in the Simple Present Subjunctive are underlined.
e.g. They demand that he submit a report.
We request that you be here tomorrow.

The Simple Present Subjunctive is also still used in a few traditional expressions.
e.g. Long live the King!

The past tenses of the Subjunctive, and the auxiliary would, are used in expressing wishes.
e.g. I wish you were here.
I wish I had known that.
I wish the rain would stop.

The past tenses of the Subjunctive, and the auxiliary would, can also be used in order to indicate that conditions being expressed are false or improbable.
e.g. If I were rich, I would travel around the world.
If he had been here, he would have been glad to see you.

In the first example, the use of the Simple Past Subjunctive were and the Simple conjugation with would indicates that the condition expressed in the clause If I were rich is false or improbable. In the second example, the use of the Past Perfect Subjunctive had been, and the Perfect conjugation with would, indicates that the condition expressed in the clause If he had been here is false.

2. Formation of the subjunctive

The English past and present tenses discussed in previous chapters are in what is usually referred to as the Indicative Mood. Each of the past and present tenses in the Indicative Mood has a corresponding tense in the Subjunctive Mood.

In modern English, most verb tenses in the Subjunctive Mood are similar or identical to the corresponding tenses in the Indicative Mood. It should be noted that verbs in the Subjunctive Mood do not modify, but have the same form regardless of the subject.

The Simple Present Subjunctive and Simple Past Subjunctive of the verb to be are shown below. The Indicative forms are also given, for purposes of comparison. The Subjunctive forms which differ from the corresponding Indicative forms are shown in bold type.

The simple indicative and subjunctive tenses of the verb To Be
Simple Present

IndicativeSubjunctive
  I am  I be
  you are  you be
  he is  he be
  she is  she be
  it is  it be
  we are  we be
  they are  they be

Simple Past

IndicativeSubjunctive
  I was  I were
  you were  you were
  he was  he were
  she was  she were
  it was  it were
  we were  we were
  they were  they were

For any verb, the Simple Present Subjunctive is formed from the bare infinitive of the verb.

For any verb except the verb to be, the Simple Past Subjunctive is identical to the Simple Past Indicative.

For all of the past and present tenses conjugated with auxiliaries, the Subjunctive tenses are formed in the same way as the Indicative tenses, except that the Subjunctive of the auxiliaries is used.

Using the example of the verb to work, the following table compares the tenses of the Indicative and Subjunctive Moods. The Subjunctive forms which differ from the corresponding Indicative forms are printed in bold type.

The indicative and subjunctive tenses of the verb To Work
Simple Present

IndicativeSubjunctive
  I work  I work
  you work  you work
  he works  he work
  she works  she work
  it works  it work
  we work  we work
  they work  they work

Present Continuous

IndicativeSubjunctive
  I am working  I be working
  you are working  you be working
  he is working  he be working
  she is working  she be working
  it is working  it be working
  we are working  we be working
  they are working  they be working

Present Perfect

IndicativeSubjunctive
  I have worked  I have worked
  you have worked  you have worked
  he has worked  he have worked
  she has worked  she have worked
  it has worked  it have worked
  we have worked  we have worked
  they have worked  they have worked

Present Perfect Continuous

IndicativeSubjunctive
  I have been working  I have been working
  you have been working  you have been working
  he has been working  he have been working
  she has been working  she have been working
  it has been working  it have been working
  we have been working  we have been working
  they have been working  they have been working

Simple Past

IndicativeSubjunctive
  I worked  I worked
  you worked  you worked
  he worked  he worked
  she worked  she worked
  it worked  it worked
  we worked  we worked
  they worked  they worked

Past Continuous

IndicativeSubjunctive
  I was working  I were working
  you were working  you were working
  he was working  he were working
  she was working  she were working
  it was working  it were working
  we were working  we were working
  they were working  they were working

Past Perfect

IndicativeSubjunctive
  I had worked  I had worked
  you had worked  you had worked
  he had worked  he had worked
  she had worked  she had worked
  it had worked  it had worked
  we had worked  we had worked
  they had worked  they had worked

Past Perfect Continuous

IndicativeSubjunctive
  I had been working  I had been working
  you had been working  you had been working
  he had been working  he had been working
  she had been working  she had been working
  it had been working  it had been working
  we had been working  we had been working
  they had been working  they had been working

The following table summarizes the formation of the English Subjunctive tenses:

TenseAuxiliaryVerb Form
  Simple Present  do  bare infinitive
  Present Continuous  be  present participle
  Present Perfect  have  past participle
  Present Perfect Continuous  have been  present participle
  Simple Past  did  bare infinitive
  Past Continuous  were  present participle
  Past Perfect  had  past participle
  Past Perfect Continuous  had been  present participle

 3. Formal commands and requests

The Simple Present Subjunctive was once more extensively used than it is today. In modern American English, the Simple Present Subjunctive is still used in clauses beginning with the word that which express formal commands or requests. In the following examples, the word that is printed in bold type, and the verbs in the Simple Present Subjunctive are underlined.
e.g. They requested that she arrive early.
It is important that they be present at the meeting.
The demand that he provide identification will create a delay.
The main clauses of the preceding examples are they requestedit is important and the demand will create a delay. In the first example, the verb requested is in the Simple Past; in the second example, the verb is is in the Simple Present; and in the third example, the verb will create is in the Simple Future.

As illustrated in these examples, the use of the Simple Present Subjunctive in the subordinate clause of a formal command or request is independent of the tense of the verb in the main clause.

The Simple Present Subjunctive is more commonly used in formal English than in informal English. For instance, the sentence “He advises that you not be late,” is an example of formal English. In informal English, the same idea would probably be expressed by the sentence “He advises you not to be late,” in which the infinitive is used, rather than a clause requiring the Simple Present Subjunctive.

See Exercise 1.

4. Wishes

The past tenses of the Subjunctive, and the auxiliary would, are used in the subordinate clauses of sentences which use the verb to wish in the main clause. In the following examples, the verb to wish is printed in bold type, and the verbs in the subordinate clauses are underlined.
e.g. He wishes that he were rich.
They wish that they had studied harder when they were young.
She wishes that you would come to the meeting tomorrow.

It should be noted that the word that can be omitted from a sentence which uses the verb to wish in the main clause.
e.g. He wishes he were rich.
They wish they had studied harder when they were young.
She wishes you would come to the meeting tomorrow.

The form of the verb used in the subordinate clause of a wish is independent of the tense of the verb in the main clause. As explained below, the form of the verb used in the subordinate clause of a wish is determined by whether the time of the action referred to in the subordinate clause is earlier than, the same as, or later than the time of the action referred to in the main clause.

a. An earlier time

When the subordinate clause refers to an earlier time than the main clause, the Past Perfect Subjunctive is usually used in the subordinate clause. In the following examples, the verbs in the Past Perfect Subjunctive are underlined.
e.g. We wished he had spoken to us.
wish you had called earlier.
They will wish they had listened to us sooner.

In the case of a continuous, ongoing action, the Past Perfect Continuous Subjunctive may be used instead of the Past Perfect Subjunctive. In the following example, the verb in the Past Perfect Continuous Subjunctive is underlined.
e.g. She wishes she had been staying with us last week.

In each of these examples, the use of the Past Perfect Subjunctive or the Past Perfect Continuous Subjunctive indicates that the subordinate clause refers to an earlier time than the main clause.

See Exercise 2.

b. The same time

When the subordinate clause refers to the same time as the main clause, the Simple Past Subjunctive is usually used in the subordinate clause. In the following examples, the verbs in the Simple Past Subjunctive are underlined.
e.g. When she was at the party, she wished she were at home.
Now that he is in China, he wishes he understood Chinese.
When we begin the trip, they will wish they were with us.

In the case of a continuous, ongoing action, the Past Continuous Subjunctive may be used instead of the Simple Past Subjunctive. In the following example, the verb in the Past Continuous Subjunctive is underlined.
e.g. They wish they were traveling now.

In each of these examples, the use of the Simple Past Subjunctive or the Past Continuous Subjunctive indicates that the subordinate clause refers to the same time as the main clause.

See Exercise 3.

c. A later time

When the subordinate clause refers to a later time than the main clause, the Simple conjugation with the auxiliary would is usually used in the subordinate clause. In the following examples, the verbs in the Simple conjugation with would are underlined.
e.g. You wished she would arrive the next day.
wish she would change her mind.
He will wish we would join him the following week.

In each of these examples, the use of the Simple conjugation with would indicates that the subordinate clause refers to a later time than the main clause.

See Exercise 4.

d. Summary

The following table summarizes the verb forms most often used in the subordinate clauses of sentences expressing wishes.

Time Referred to in Subordinate Clause
Compared to Time Referred to in Main ClauseForm of Verb Used in Subordinate Clause
  Earlier  Past Perfect Subjunctive or
  Past Perfect Continuous Subjunctive
  e.g. I wish it had snowed yesterday.
  Same  Simple Past Subjunctive or
  Past Continuous Subjunctive
  e.g. I wish it were snowing now.
  Later  Simple conjugation with would
  e.g. I wish it would snow tomorrow.

See Exercise 5.

e. Use of the auxiliary Could in expressing wishes

It should be noted that the modal auxiliary could, which will be discussed further in the next chapter, can also be used in the subordinate clause of a sentence expressing a wish. The auxiliary could forms conjugations in the same way as the auxiliary would.
e.g. I wish I could help you tomorrow.
I wish I could help you now.

As illustrated in the preceding examples, the Simple conjugation with could may be used when the time referred to in the subordinate clause is later than, or the same as, the time referred to in the main clause.

As illustrated in the following example, the Perfect conjugation with could may be used when the time referred to in the subordinate clause is earlier than the time referred to in the main clause.
e.g. I wish I could have helped you yesterday.

5. Conditions which are false or improbable

Conditions are most often expressed in subordinate clauses beginning with the word if. In the following examples, the word if is printed in bold type.
e.g. If it had rained yesterday, we would have stayed at home.
The condition contained in this sentence is expressed in the subordinate clause if it had rained yesterday.

Sometimes the word if is omitted from a subordinate clause expressing a condition. When the word if is omitted, the verb (in the case of the Simple tenses of to be), or the first auxiliary, must be placed before the subject. The following pairs of sentences illustrate the change in word order which occurs when the word if is omitted from a clause expressing a condition. In these examples, the verbs of the subordinate clauses are underlined.
e.g. If I were braver, I would challenge him.
Were I braver, I would challenge him.

If they had been expecting us, they would have arranged to meet us.
Had they been expecting us, they would have arranged to meet us.

If I had not received your message, I would have left.
Had I not received your message, I would have left.

See Exercise 6.

As well as being expressed in subordinate clauses beginning with the word if, conditions may also be expressed in subordinate clauses beginning with the word unless.
e.g. Unless he were a giant, he would not be able to see over the wall.

Either the Indicative Mood or the Subjunctive Mood can be used to express a condition.

In the case of a condition which is considered true or probable, the Indicative Mood is used.
e.g. If she is here now, we will ask her opinion.
In this example, the verb is is in the Simple Present Indicative. The use of the Simple Present Indicative indicates that the condition if she is here now is considered to be probable.

In the case of a condition which is considered false or improbable, the Subjunctive Mood is used.
e.g. If she were here now, we would ask her opinion.
In this example, the verb were is in the Simple Past Subjunctive. The use of the Simple Past Subjunctive indicates that the condition if she were here now is considered to be false or improbable.

a. Forms of the verb used in the main clause

When a sentence contains a condition which is considered false or improbable, the verb in the main clause is usually in the Simple or Perfect conjugation with the auxiliary would.

i. Referring to present or future time

In a sentence containing a false or improbable condition, if the main clause refers to present or future time, the Simple conjugation with the auxiliary would is usually used. In the following examples, the verbs in the Simple conjugation with would are underlined.
e.g. If he were ready, I would accompany him.
If she came, I would lend her my bicycle.

In these examples, the use of the Simple conjugation with would indicates that the main clauses I would accompany him and I would lend her my bicycle refer to present or future time.

In the case of a continuous, ongoing action, the Continuous conjugation with would may be used. In the following examples, the verbs in the Continuous conjugation with would are underlined.
e.g. If they were here, he would be speaking to them now.
If they arrived tomorrow, he would be giving them a tour of the city.

See Exercise 7.

ii. Referring to past time

In a sentence containing a false or improbable condition, if the main clause refers to past time, the Perfect conjugation with the auxiliary would is usually used. In the following example, the verb in the Perfect conjugation with would is underlined.
e.g. If it had snowed, I would have skied in the park.

In this example, the use of the Perfect conjugation with would indicates that the main clause I would have skied in the park refers to past time. The use of the Perfect conjugation with would, combined with the use of the Past Perfect in the subordinate clause, indicates that the condition it had snowed is false, and that the action of skiing did not take place.

In the case of a continuous, ongoing action, the Perfect Continuous conjugation with would may be used. In the following example, the verb in the Perfect Continuous conjugation with would is underlined.
e.g. If they had been here, he would have been speaking to them.

See Exercise 8.

iii. Summary

The forms of the verb most commonly used in the main clauses of sentences containing false or improbable conditions are summarized in the following table.

Referring ToVerb in Main Clause
  Present or  Simple conjugation with would
    future time  or Continuous conjugation with would
  e.g. If you started now, you would arrive on time.
  Past time  Perfect conjugation with would
  or Perfect Continuous conjugation with would
  e.g. If you had started yesterday, you would have arrived on time.

See Exercise 9.

iv. Use of the auxiliary Could in sentences containing false or improbable Conditions

It should be noted that the auxiliary could can be used in either the main clause or the subordinate clause of a sentence containing a false or improbable condition. The first pair of examples illustrates the use of the auxiliary could in the main clause. The second pair of examples illustrates the use of the auxiliary could in the subordinate clause.
e.g. If they studied hard, they could pass the exam next year.
If they had studied hard, they could have passed the exam last year.

If you could see me now, you would not recognize me.
If you could have seen me yesterday, you would not have recognized me.

In these examples, the verbs could pass and could see are in the Simple conjugation with could; and the verbs could have passed and could have seen are in the Perfect conjugation with could. As illustrated in these examples, the Simple conjugation with could may be used to refer to present or future time; whereas the Perfect conjugation with could may be used to refer to past time.

b. Forms of the verb used in the subordinate clause

i. Referring to present or future time

In a sentence containing a false or improbable condition, if the subordinate clause refers to present or future time, the Simple Past Subjunctive is usually used. In the following examples, the verbs in the Simple Past Subjunctive are underlined.
e.g. If it snowed, I would ski in the park.
If he were here, I would give him the books.

In these examples, the use of the Simple Past Subjunctive indicates that the subordinate clauses if it snowed and if he were here refer to present or future time.

In the case of a continuous, ongoing action, the Past Continuous Subjunctive may be used. In the following example, the verb in the Past Continuous Subjunctive is underlined.
If she were staying here now, I would let her ride my horse.

See Exercise 10.

It should be noted that, in the case of the verb to be, in informal English, the Simple Past Indicative is often used instead of the Simple Past Subjunctive. For instance, the following pair of examples shows how the same idea might be expressed in formal and informal English.

Formal: If he were here now, I would give him the books.
Informal: If he was here now, I would give him the books.

It should be observed that, even when the Indicative is used instead of the Subjunctive, the use of a past tense for an action pertaining to present time, combined with the use of the conjugation with would in the main clause, is enough to indicate clearly that the condition expressed is considered false or improbable. However, this use of was instead of were is considered grammatically incorrect in formal English.

ii. Referring to past time

In a sentence containing a false or improbable condition, if the subordinate clause refers to past time, the Past Perfect Subjunctive is usually used. In the following example, the verb in the Past Perfect Subjunctive is underlined.
e.g. If he had wanted to come, he would have called us.

In this example, the use of the Past Perfect Subjunctive indicates that the subordinate clause if he had wanted to come refers to past time. The use of the Past Perfect Subjunctive also indicates that the condition he had wanted to come is false.

In the case of a continuous, ongoing action, the Past Perfect Continuous Subjunctive may be used. In the following example, the verb in the Past Perfect Continuous Subjunctive is underlined.
e.g. If it had been raining yesterday, I would have taken my umbrella.

See Exercise 11.

iii. Summary

The forms of the Subjunctive most commonly used in subordinate clauses expressing false or improbable conditions are summarized in the following table.

Referring ToVerb in Subordinate Clause
  Present or  Simple Past Subjunctive
    future time  or Past Continuous Subjunctive
  e.g. If you started now, you would arrive on time.
  Past time  Past Perfect Subjunctive
  or Past Perfect Continuous Subjunctive
  e.g. If you had started yesterday, you would have arrived on time.

See Exercise 12.

c. Changing a statement containing a probable condition into a statement containing an improbable condition

A statement containing a probable condition can be changed into a statement containing an improbable condition, by changing the forms of the verbs.

For instance, in each of the following pairs of examples, the first statement contains a probable condition; whereas the second statement contains an improbable condition. The verbs in the subordinate clauses and main clauses are underlined.

Probable: If he is here now, we will give him the book.
Improbable: If he were here now, we would give him the book.

Probable: If I have time tonight, I will help you with your homework.
Improbable: If I had time tonight, I would help you with your homework.

In these examples, he is here now and I have time tonight express probable conditions; whereas he were here now and I had time tonight express improbable conditions.

These examples illustrate how, when referring to non-continuous actions in present or future time, a statement containing a probable condition can be changed into a statement containing an improbable condition. The verb in the subordinate clause is changed from the Simple Present Indicative to the Simple Past Subjunctive; and the verb in the main clause is changed from the Simple Future to the Simple conjugation with would.

See Exercise 13.

It is sometimes said that when a verb is in the Indicative Mood, the use of a past tense indicates remoteness in terms of time; however, when a verb is in the Subjunctive Mood, the use of a past tense indicates remoteness in terms of probability.

6. The imperative mood

The Imperative Mood is used for giving commands. Like the Simple Present Subjunctive, the Imperative Mood of a verb is formed from the bare infinitive of the verb. For instance, the Imperative of the verb to work is work. In the following examples, the verbs in the Imperative Mood are underlined.
e.g. Work!
Work harder!

Likewise, the Imperative of the verb to be is be.
e.g. Be more alert!
You be ready to come with us.

The Imperative Mood can be used only in the second person. As shown in the first three examples above, the subject of the sentence is often omitted when the Imperative Mood is used. In such sentences, the subject you is said to be “understood”. In written English, when the subject of the verb is omitted from a command, the command is often followed by an exclamation mark: !

The Imperative Mood can also be used in negative statements. Negative statements are formed using the auxiliary do, followed by the word not. The contraction don’t is often used in spoken English. For example:

Without ContractionsWith Contractions
  Do not work so hard.  Don’t work so hard.
  Do not be afraid.  Don’t be afraid.

See Exercise 14.

EXERCISES for Chapter 9

  1. Fill in the blanks with the Simple Present Subjunctive of the verbs shown in brackets. For example:
    They insisted that she _____ at once. (to come)
    They insisted that she come at once.

The proposal that she ______ us has merit. (to meet)
The proposal that she meet us has merit.

  1. He suggested that I _________ ready by eight o’clock. (to be)
  2. We request that she _________ the window. (to open)
  3. They demanded that he _________ the room. (to leave)
  4. I will ask that she _____________ me. (to accompany)
  5. They recommended that he _________ to Bermuda. (to fly)
  6. The request that we ______ ready to leave at six is a nuisance. (to be)
  7. The recommendation that she ______ a holiday was carried out. (to take)
  8. It is necessary that you _________ able to come with us. (to be)
  9. They asked that we _________ standing. (to remain)
  10. The requirement that he _________ work will be hard to meet. (to find)
  11. It is important that he _________ everything he can. (to learn)
  12. The demand that she __________ the report has been carried out. (to complete)
  13. Complete each of the following sentences with the Past Perfect Subjunctive of the verb shown in brackets. For example:
    They wished they ___ not ____. (to come)
    They wished they had not come.

I wish I ________ ready on time. (to be)
I wish I had been ready on time.

Will she wish she __________ her bicycle? (to ride)
Will she wish she had ridden her bicycle?

  1. I wish I ______ not ____________ the answers. (to lose)
  2. They wished they ______ not _____________ the appointment. (to forget)
  3. He will wish he __________________ us the book. (to show)
  4. Will they wish we __________________ them some food? (to give)
  5. We wish it _______________ yesterday. (to snow)
  6. She wished she ______ not _________ the window. (to open)
  7. I wished I _______________ the news. (to hear)
  8. You wish you _______________ what to do. (to know)
  9. Complete each of the following sentences with the Simple Past Subjunctive of the verb shown in brackets. For example:
    He wished he ____ able to do it. (to be)
    He wished he were able to do it.

I wish I ______ with you. (to agree)
I wish I agreed with you.

They will wish they _____ time to come. (to have)
They will wish they had time to come.

  1. I wish it _________ possible to finish the work tonight. (to be)
  2. Will he wish he ______ ready? (to be)
  3. She wished she _________ how to sing. (to know)
  4. We wish they ____________ to come with us. (to want)
  5. You wished you ___________ better. (to feel)
  6. They will wish it _________ warmer. (to be)
  7. Does he wish he ____________ younger? (to be)
  8. I wish I _________ the subject more interesting. (to find)
  9. Complete the following sentences, using the indicated verbs in the Simple conjugation with would. For example:
    They wished the sun ___________. (to shine)
    They wished the sun would shine.

Does she wish it __________? (to snow)
Does she wish it would snow?

You will wish the bell _________. (to ring)
You will wish the bell would ring.

  1. They wished she __________________ the arrangements. (to make)
  2. He will wish you __________________ him. (to help)
  3. She wishes the mail _______________. (to come)
  4. We wished they _________________. (to hurry)
  5. You will wish the door _________________. (to open)
  6. They wish we _________________ for them. (to wait)
  7. I wish you _________________ to me. (to write)
  8. Will she wish you _______________ her? (to join)
  9. Paying attention to the underlined adverbs indicating time, complete each of the following sentences with the correct form of the verb shown in brackets. Use the Past Perfect Subjunctive, the Simple Past Subjunctive, or the Simple conjugation with would, depending on whether the time of the action referred to in the subordinate clause is earlier than, the same as, or later than, the time of making the wish. For example:
    We wished they _________ us earlier. (to call)
    We wished they had called us earlier.

She wishes she ____ in Rome now.
She wishes she were in Rome now.

I wish you __________ with us tomorrow. (to come)
I wish you would come with us tomorrow.

  1. I wish he ___________ here now. (to be)
  2. I wish that you _____________ here yesterday. (to be)
  3. We wish you ________________ tomorrow. (to come)
  4. You will wish you ______________ earlier. (to leave)
  5. They wished he _________________ with them the next day. (to come)
  6. We wish you ________________ yesterday. (to arrive)
  7. I wish that he ______________ us next year. (to visit)
  8. She wishes that she ___________ at home now. (to be)
  9. You wish that he ______________ you last week. (to help)
  10. He will always wish he ____________ rich. (to be)
  11. The boy wished that he ____________ the competition the next day. (to win)
  12. She will wish she _____________ the arrangements earlier. (to make)
  13. I wish the weather ____________ warmer now. (to be)
  14. We always wished we ____________ fluent in other languages. (to be)
  15. They wish he ________________ them next week. (to telephone)
  16. For each of the following sentences, rewrite the subordinate clause, using the form in which the word if is omitted. For example:
    If I were in your position, I would pay close attention.
    Were I in your position, I would pay close attention.

If it had been raining, we would have used our umbrellas.
Had it been raining, we would have used our umbrellas.

  1. If he were here, he would lend us his car.
  2. If I had remembered their address, I would have sent them a card.
  3. If we were not waiting for a telephone call, we would go downtown.
  4. If they had recognized her, they would have spoken to her.
  5. If I had been intending to go shopping, I would have let you know.
  6. If you had seen the movie, you would have liked it.
  7. If it were not snowing, we would go out.
  8. If he had been shoveling the walk, we would have seen him.
  9. Complete the following sentences, using the indicated verbs in the Simple conjugation with would. For example:
    We __________ if we were ready. (to come)
    We would come if we were ready.

_____ you _____ more if you had time? (to travel)
Would you travel more if you had time?

If they saw us, they _____ not _________ us. (to recognize)
If they saw us, they would not recognize us.

_____ you not ____ glad if you were rich? (to be)
Would you not be glad if you were rich?

  1. If we were hitchhiking, ________ you ________ to pick us up? (to stop)
  2. If we waited for him, we ________ not ________ on time. (to be)
  3. ________ he ________ us know if we made a mistake? (to let)
  4. I ________ not _______ to have a party if you were not there. (to want)
  5. If you knew more about her, you ________________ your opinion. (to change)
  6. ________ you ________ pizza if you did not like it? (to order)
  7. ________ they not ________ to come if we asked them? (to agree)
  8. We ________ not _________ a car unless we were insured. (to drive)
  9. Complete the following sentences, using the indicated verbs in the Perfect conjugation with would. For example:
    If it had rained, I ________________ at home. (to stay)
    If it had rained, I would have stayed at home.

_____ you _________ with us if we had asked you? (to come)
Would you have come with us if we had asked you?

If he had hurried, he _____ not ___________ the bus. (to miss)
If he had hurried, he would not have missed the bus.

_____ she not __________ if she had seen us? (to wave)
Would she not have waved if she had seen us?

  1. If he had arrived late, ________ we ______________ without him? (to begin)
  2. If they had felt thirsty, ________ they not _____________ the lemonade? (to drink)
  3. If we had been here, we _______ not ______________ the fireworks. (to miss)
  4. If his office had called, _______ he not _______________ to work? (to return)
  5. She _______ not _______________ early if she had not had a good reason. (to leave)
  6. If they had searched more carefully, they _____________________ the watch sooner. (to find)
  7. If you had visited Rome, _______ you ____________ to the opera? (to go)
  8. She ______________________ down if she had been tired. (to lie)
  9. The following statements contain false or improbable conditions. Paying attention to the underlined adverbs indicating time, complete the following sentences, using the indicated verbs in the appropriate conjugations with would. use the Simple conjugation for actions pertaining to the present or the future, and use the Perfect conjugation for actions pertaining to the past. For example:
    If you came with us now, you _________ everything. (to see)
    If you came with us now, you would see everything.

_____ he __________ us yesterday if we had slept in? (to wake)
Would he have woken us yesterday if we had slept in?

  1. If he were here now he _______ not ___________ to help us. (to hesitate)
  2. I ___________________ the book last week if I had known you wanted it. (to finish)
  3. ______ you ______________ to him last night if you had seen him? (to speak)
  4. If they were old enough, they __________________ the contest next week. (to enter)
  5. ______ she not ____________ a vacation now if she had more time? (to take)
  6. If he had sent a message, we ______________________ it two days ago. (to receive)
  7. I ____________________ it if you came with me now. (to appreciate)
  8. ______ she not ________ grateful if we offered to help her tomorrow? (to be)
  9. ______ he _____________ yesterday if he had entered the race? (to win)
  10. _______ they not __________________ more books last month if they had noticed the stock was low? (to order)
  11. _______ she not ___________ us now if she knew where we lived? (to visit)
  12. _______ you _________________ cucumbers yesterday if they had been on sale? (to buy)
  13. For each of the following sentences, complete the subordinate clause with the Simple Past Subjunctive of the verb shown in brackets. For example:
    If he ____ in town, he would call us. (to be)
    If he were in town, he would call us.

Would you go to the party if you ________ an invitation? (to receive)
Would you go to the party if you received an invitation?

If he ___ not ____ his work, he would find another job. (to like)
If he did not like his work, he would find another job.

  1. If he ________ rich, he would travel. (to be)
  2. _________ I not anxious to meet him, I would stay at home. (to be)
  3. He would have more free time if he ______ not _________ so hard. (to work)
  4. If I _________ a car, I would visit Cape Breton. (to have)
  5. We would take the bus if it _________ to snow. (to begin)
  6. If you _________ him, you would surely recognize him. (to see)
  7. I would not confide in him if I _______ not _________ him. (to trust)
  8. If we _______ not _________ time, we would let you know. (to have)
  9. If he _____________ an expedition, I would certainly join it. (to organize)
  10. I would not worry about it if I _________ you. (to be)
  11. For each of the following sentences, complete the subordinate clause with the Past Perfect Subjunctive of the verb shown in brackets. For example:
    If I __________ him to do it, he would have obeyed me. (to order)
    If I had ordered him to do it, he would have obeyed me.

Had it not ______ yesterday, we would have raked the leaves. (to snow)
Had it not snowed yesterday, we would have raked the leaves.

  1. I would not have got lost if I ______________ the map. (to study)
  2. _______ he _________ at home, we would have visited him. (to be)
  3. We would have invited him if we ________________ he would come. (to think)
  4. He would have applied for the job if he _______________ the advertisement. (to see)
  5. We would not have ordered tea, ______ we __________ how late it was. (to know)
  6. ______ it not __________, they would have held the party in the park. (to rain)
  7. We would have agreed with you if we _________________ what you meant. (to understand)
  8. If you _____________ salt on the steps, they would not have been so slippery. (to put)
  9. ______ he ___________ to us, we would have known when to expect him. (to write)
  10. If he ________________ to take the course, he would have had to work hard. (to choose)
  11. The following statements contain false or improbable conditions. Paying attention to the underlined adverbs indicating time, complete the subordinate clauses with the correct forms of the verbs shown in brackets. Use the Simple Past Subjunctive for actions pertaining to the present or the future, and use the Past Perfect Subjunctive for actions pertaining to the past. For example:
    If she ____ here now, she would be admiring the rose bushes. (to be)
    If she were here now, she would be admiring the rose bushes.

___ he ______ here last week, we would have met him. (to stay)
Had he stayed here last week, we would have met him.

  1. If he _________ here now, we would ask his opinion. (to be)
  2. We would have forgotten our tickets last night, if she ____not ________ us. (to remind)
  3. _____ I ________ earlier, I would have arrived on time yesterday. (to leave)
  4. Would you visit Spain next summer, if you _________ enough money? (to have)
  5. If it _________________ yesterday, we would not need to water the lawn. (to rain)
  6. If he _________ you last Wednesday, he would have asked your advice. (to see)
  7. If they __________ to leave now, they would need special permission. (to want)
  8. _____ they _________ of the concert yesterday, they would have arranged to go. (to know)
  9. Would you not have stayed longer last week, if you ___________ able to? (to be)
  10. If they ____________ the letter tomorrow, they would receive an answer in two weeks. (to write)
  11. If he _____________ the book now, he would enjoy it. (to read)
  12. If we _____________ more attention yesterday, we would know what time to be there. (to pay)
  13. Change each of the following sentences from a statement containing a probable condition to a statement containing a false or improbable condition. Following the model of the examples, change the underlined verb in the subordinate clause from the Simple Present Indicative to the Simple Past Subjunctive; and change the underlined verb in the main clause from the Simple Future to the Simple conjugation with would. For example:
    If she is angry, she will scold us.
    If she were angry, she would scold us.

If he wins, we will congratulate him.
If he won, we would congratulate him.

They will join us, if we send them a message.
They would join us, if we sent them a message.

  1. If they want to see you, they will come to the party.
  2. If he is curious, he will ask what we are doing.
  3. She will help us, if she has time.
  4. If they work hard, they will succeed.
  5. If I find the culprits, I will teach them a lesson.
  6. If she recognizes us, she will wave.
  7. They will treat you well, if you are honest with them.
  8. If she likes you, she will tell you.
  9. If he is ready, we will invite him to come.
  10. If they see me, they will want to speak to me.
  11. Complete the following sentences by filling in the blanks with the Imperative form of the verbs shown in brackets. For example:
    ____ the door. (to open)
    Open the door.

Don’t ______ to come. (to forget)
Don’t forget to come.

  1. Don’t __________ out late. (to stay)
  2. Please _________ ready on time. (to be)
  3. Don’t ___________ about that. (to worry)
  4. _________ your own business! (to mind)
  5. _________ careful not to trip. (to be)
  6. Do not ____________ everything you hear. (to believe)
  7. Always ___________ both ways before crossing the street. (to look)
  8. You __________ here while I go into the store. (to wait)
  9. __________ me! (to excuse)
  10. _________ me a postcard if you have time. (to send)

ANSWERS TO THE EXERCISES for Chapter 9

Answers to Exercise 1:
1. be 2. open 3. leave 4. accompany 5. fly 6. be 7. take 8. be 9. remain 10. find 11. learn 12. complete

Answers to Exercise 2:
1. had, lost 2. had, forgotten 3. had shown 4. had given 5. had snowed 6. had, opened 7. had heard 8. had known

Answers to Exercise 3:
1. were 2. were 3. knew 4. wanted 5. felt 6. were 7. were 8. found

Answers to Exercise 4:
1. would make 2. would help 3. would come 4. would hurry 5. would open 6. would wait 7. would write 8. would join

Answers to Exercise 5:
1. were 2. had been 3. would come 4. had left 5. would come 6. had arrived 7. would visit 8. were 9. had helped 10. were 11. would win 12. had made 13. were 14. were 15. would telephone

Answers to Exercise 6:
1. Were he here, he would lend us his car. 2. Had I remembered their address, I would have sent them a card. 3. Were we not waiting for a telephone call, we would go downtown. 4. Had they recognized her, they would have spoken to her. 5. Had I been intending to go shopping, I would have let you know. 6. Had you seen the movie, you would have liked it. 7. Were it not snowing, we would go out. 8. Had he been shoveling the walk, we would have seen him.

Answers to Exercise 7:
1. would, stop 2. would, be 3. Would, let 4. would, want 5. would change 6. Would, order 7. Would, agree 8. would, drive

Answers to Exercise 8:
1. would, have begun 2. would, have drunk 3. would, have missed 4. would, have returned 5. would, have left 6. would have found 7. would, have gone 8. would have lain

Answers to Exercise 9:
1. would, hesitate 2. would have finished 3. Would, have spoken 4. would enter 5. Would, take 6. would have received 7. would appreciate 8. Would, be 9. Would, have won 10. Would, have ordered 11. Would, visit 12. Would, have bought

Answers to Exercise 10:
1. were 2. Were 3. did, work 4. had 5. began 6. saw 7. did, trust 8. did, have 9. organized 10. were

Answers to Exercise 11:
1. had studied 2. Had, been 3. had thought 4. had seen 5. had, known 6. Had, rained 7. had understood 8. had put 9. Had, written 10. had chosen

Answers to Exercise 12:
1. were 2. had, reminded 3. Had, left 4. had 5. had rained 6. had seen 7. wanted 8. Had, known 9. had been 10. wrote 11. read 12. had paid

Answers to Exercise 13:
1. If they wanted to see you, they would come to the party. 2. If he were curious, he would ask what we are doing. 3. She would help us, if she had time. 4. If they worked hard, they would succeed. 5. If I found the culprits, I would teach them a lesson. 6. If she recognized us, she would wave. 7. They would treat you well, if you were honest with them. 8. If she liked you, she would tell you. 9. If he were ready, we would invite him to come. 10. If they saw me, they would want to speak to me.

Answers to Exercise 14:
1. stay 2. be 3. worry 4. Mind 5. Be 6. believe 7. look 8. wait 9. Excuse 10. Send

English Grammar Lessons
If you find any mistakes in the questions or need an explanation of the correct answer, please let us know by leaving a comment below. We will immediately correct the mistake or try to explain the answer as much as possible.

2 thoughts on “The Subjunctive”

  1. I am a teacher having some 28 years of experience, and think these tests can be helpful to my students in different levels.
    Appreciate to be updated regularly through email.
    Regards;
    Vahid

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