[ suhb-juhngk-tiv ]

  1. (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).

  1. the subjunctive mood or mode.

  2. 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

Grammar notes for subjunctive

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.

Other words from subjunctive

  • sub·junc·tive·ly, adverb

Words Nearby subjunctive Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use subjunctive in a sentence

  • In the first and third (sometimes even in the second) it is replaced by the subjunctive.

    The Mafulu | Robert W. Williamson

British Dictionary definitions for subjunctive


/ (səbˈdʒʌŋktɪv) /

  1. 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. grammar

    • the subjunctive mood

    • a verb in this mood

Origin of subjunctive

C16: via Late Latin subjunctīvus, from Latin subjungere to subjoin
  • Abbreviation: subj

Derived forms of subjunctive

  • subjunctively, adverb

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

Cultural definitions for subjunctive


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 New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.