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[suh b-juhngk-tiv] /səbˈdʒʌŋk tɪv/ Grammar
(in English and certain other languages) noting or pertaining to a mood or mode of the verb that may be used for subjective, doubtful, hypothetical, or grammatically subordinate statements or questions, as the mood of be in if this be treason.
Compare imperative (def 3), indicative (def 2).
the subjunctive mood or mode.
a verb in the subjunctive mood or form.
Origin of subjunctive
1520-30; < Late Latin subjunctīvus, equivalent to subjunct(us) (past participle of subjungere to subjoin, equivalent to sub- sub- + jung(ere) to join + -tus past participle suffix) + -īvus -ive
Related forms
subjunctively, adverb
Usage note
The subjunctive mood of the verb, once used extensively in English, has largely disappeared today. The subjunctive survives, though by no means consistently, in sentences with conditional clauses contrary to fact and in subordinate clauses after verbs like wish: If the house were nearer to the road, we would hear more traffic noise. I wish I were in Florida. The subjunctive also occurs in subordinate that clauses after a main clause expressing recommendation, resolution, demand, etc.: We ask that each tenant take (not takes) responsibility for keeping the front door locked. It is important that only fresh spinach be (not is) used. The subjunctive occurs too in some established or idiomatic expressions: So be it. Heaven help us. God rest ye merry, gentlemen. Were in the phrase as it were, meaning “in a way,” is a subjunctive: His apology, as it were, sounded more like an insult. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for subjunctive
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The past subjunctive had is common in had rather and similar phrases.

  • There is some confusion in modern Cornish about the subjunctive or fifth tense.

  • This subjunctive should properly be don (donem, post tonic em is lost).

    Avril H. Belloc
  • This tense is seldom used as an auxiliary, and is often confused with the subjunctive.

  • Whereas most grammars cut the ground from under them by denying the existence of a subjunctive Mood.

    Practical Exercises in English Huber Gray Buehler
  • And the rest as the subjunctive or imperfect of gwîl with the infinitive.

  • The subjunctive is used to indicate something as granted or conceded for the sake of argument.

    New Latin Grammar Charles E. Bennett
  • These events are all in the uncertain future, and are put in the subjunctive.

    The Verbalist Thomas Embly Osmun, (AKA Alfred Ayres)
  • The future is formed in the same way from the subjunctive with a stress upon the final a in the first conjugation.

    The Mafulu Robert W. Williamson
British Dictionary definitions for subjunctive


(grammar) denoting a mood of verbs used when the content of the clause is being doubted, supposed, feared true, etc, rather than being asserted. The rules for its use and the range of meanings it may possess vary considerably from language to language. In the following sentence, were is in the subjunctive: I'd think very seriously about that if I were you Compare indicative
  1. the subjunctive mood
  2. a verb in this mood
Derived Forms
subjunctively, adverb
Word Origin
C16: via Late Latin subjunctīvus, from Latin subjungere to subjoin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for subjunctive

1520s, "mood employed to denote an action or state as conceived and not as a fact," from Late Latin subjunctivus "serving to join, connecting," from past participle stem of subjungere "to append, add at the end, place under," from sub "under" (see sub-) + jungere "to join" (see jugular). The Latin modus subjunctivus probably is a grammarians' loan-translation of Greek hypotaktike enklisis "subordinated," so called because the Greek subjunctive mood is used almost exclusively in subordinate clauses.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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subjunctive in Culture

subjunctive definition

A grammatical form of verbs implying hypothetical action or condition. Subjunctives are italicized in these sentences: “If Mr. Stafford were [not “was”] fluent in French, he could communicate with his employees more effectively”; “If Sheila had been here, she would have helped us with our math.”

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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