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The subjunctive

The subjunctive is a grammar form that has no plural form or past form. It is generally used when something is considered important or desirable. It is part of a highly formal style of English often referred to as ‘The Queen’s English’.

For example:

  • It is essential that every child have educational opportunities.
  • It has been suggested that the company invest in new machinery.
  • The judge recommended that the prisoner stay in prison for at least 10 years.

Note that ‘do’ is not used in the negative form:

  • It is essential that every child not have to pay for educational opportunities.
  • It has been suggested that the company not invest in new machinery until next year.
  • The judge recommended that the prisoner not stay in prison any longer

The verb be is slightly different to other verbs in the subjunctive, because there is a different past tense form.

  • It is important that both parties be available to sign the documents
  • I wish it were the weekend!

There are also some fixed phrases that use the subjunctive form:

  • God save the Queen (not saves)
  • Long live the King! (not lives)
  • God bless us all (not blesses)
  • Be that as it may…

Test your skills with the subjunctive with this exercise. All you need to do is select the grammatically correct option for each of the pairs of sentences below.


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The subjunctive

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The subjunctive