Now we come to a very difficult set of problems, namely those connected with the subjunctive (or conditional) mood.
The chief difficulty analysis has to face here is the absence of a mutual relation between meaning and form. Sometimes the same external series of signs will have two or more different meanings depending on factors lying outside the form itself, and outside the meaning of the verb; sometimes the same modal meaning will be expressed by two different series of external signs.
Let’s take, for example, the sequence we should come,
which means one thing in the sentence:
I think we should come
here again to-morrow (here we should come
is equivalent to we ought to come
); it means another thing in the sentence:
If we knew that he wants us we should come
to see him (here we should come
denotes a conditional, i.e. an action depending on certain conditions), and it means another thing again in the sentence:
How queer that we should come
at the very moment when you were talking about us! (here we should come denotes an action which has actually taken place and which is considered as an object for comment).
The second point may be illustrated by comparing of two sentences, I suggest that he go
and he I suggest that
and we will for the present neglect the fact that the first of the two variants is more typical of American, and the second of British English.
Matters are still further complicated by two phenomena where we are faced with a choice between polysemy and homonymy. One of these concerns forms like lived, knew ,
etc. Such forms appear in two types of contexts, of which one may be exemplified by the sentences, He lived here five years
or I knew it all alone
, and the other by the sentences, If he lived here he would come at once
, or, If I knew his address
I should write to him
In sentences of the first type the form obviously is the past tense of the indicative mood. The second type admits of two interpretations: either the forms lived, knew, etc are the same forms of past indicative that were used in the first type, but they have acquired another meaning in this particular context, or else the forms lived, knew,
etc. are forms of some other mood, which only happen to be homonymous with forms of the past indicative but are basically different.
Subjunctive mood may express suppositional
1. The verb to be
has in present tense the form be
for all singular and plural persons.
The verb to be
in the past tense has the form were
for singular and plural persons (I be, I were respectively).
2. Forms be
are used for formation of Present and Past Subjunctive mood in Passive voice (I be sent, I were sent respectively).
3. All other verbs in subjunctive mood differ from indicative mood by the form of the third person of the Present time without ending –s
Using of forms of Subjunctive mood.
I. The forms of Present Subjunctive of the verb to be and of other verbs are used :
a) In subordinate clauses of subject, beginning with conjunction that
after impersonal turns such as: it
(необходимо), it is
(важно), it is desirable
(желательно) and so on:
Ex. It is desirable that he be there at 5 o’clock. (Желательно, чтобы он был здесь в пять часов.)
b) In subordinate clauses of object, expressing order, offer, resoluteness, accord
– to order, to
приказать, to suggest, to propose
предлагать, to decide
решать, to agree
The workers demanded
that the law be put into effect
c) In subordinate clauses of purpose after conjunction lest:
Ex. They covered the goods with canvas lest
they be damaged by rain. (Они покрыли товар брезентом, чтобы они не были повреждены дождем).
Present Subjunctive is used mainly in the USA, in England this form is remained only in official language (acts of the law, document); in a modern literary language and in a spoken language Present Subjunctive is replaced by construction should with infinitive.
The form of Past Subjunctive of the verb to be- were
a) In a subordinate part of conditional sentences of the second type:
Ex. If he were
here, he would help us. ( Если бы он был здесь, он помог бы нам.)
If I were
you, I would accept their offer. (Если бы я был на вашем месте, я бы принял их предложение.)
b) In subordinate sentences of course of action (образа действия), beginning with conjunctive as if:
Ex. He spoke as if
a specialist on the subject. ( Он говорил, как если бы он был специалистом по этому вопросу.)
c) In subordinate sentences of object with the verb to wish:
Ex. I wish he were
with! (Как я хотела, чтобы он был с нами.)
From all forms of Subjunctive mood the form were
is the most spread, but it is often replaced by the form was
in the first and the third persons of a singular form. It is especially typical for colloquial speech.
Ex. If he was
here, he would help us.
Thus, those few forms of the Subjunctive mood that are preserved in the modern language are gradually ousted from it.
The desirable and suppositional actions are expressed also by the following combinations: should, would, may, might
, which perform the functions of the Subjunctive mood.
Ex. There are some suggestions that might help
in our work. (Имеются некоторые предположения, которые могли бы помочь в нашей работе).
Conditional sentences are closely connected with subjunctive (conditional) mood. There are three types of conditional sentences.
Conditional sentences of the first type
express entirely real
and realizable suppositions
and correspond in Russian language to conditional sentences with verbs in indicative mood.
These conditional sentences mostly express suppositions referring to the future tens.
Ex. If the weather is
fine to-morrow, we shall go
to the country. (Если завтра будет хорошая погода, мы поедем за город.)
There is no necessity to further consider this type of conditional sentences as they do not conform to the theme.
The conditional sentences of the second type
and improbable suppositions.
They refer to the present
and in Russian language agree with conditional sentences with verbs in Subjunctive mood
(i.e. in the form of past tens with the particle бы
in Russian language). In the conditional sentences of the second type in subordinate clause (in condition) there used the form of Past Indefinite
and in main clause (in consequence) – a combination of should
with Indefinite Infinitive:
Ex. If Helen knew**
about Alice’s arrival (now), she would
. (Если бы Елена знала
о прибытии Алисы, она бы
(Given sentence is incredible as Helen does not know about Alice’s arrival that is why she can not call her up.)
Ex. If my brother had**
a time now, he would help
them. ( Если бы
у моего брата было
время, он бы помог
(This sentence is also impossible as the brother has not time now that is why he can not help us.)
** We have here Subjunctive mood which however coincides with the form of Past Indefinite of Indicative mood.
The combinations such as:
(with all persons) with Infinitive without
(with all persons) with Infinitive with
are used along with Past Indefinite in order to underline a small possibility
of realization of a fact in future.
Ex. If I should see
I should ask him about it.
If I were to see
I should ask him about it.
его завтра, я спросил бы его об этом.)
In subordinate clauses there used sometimes combinations of would with Infinitive. I
n this case the verb would is not an auxiliary verb but serves to show a request.
Ex. We should be obliged if you would acknowledge
receipt of this letter. (Мы были бы обязаны, если бы
(были любезны подтвердить) получение этого письма).
The following examples of sentences may also be regarded as sentences of unreal conditions for the present and future
1. I wish
I knew it. (Как жаль, что я этого не знаю).
2. I fear lest
he should be late. (Я боюсь, как бы он не опоздал).
3. He spoke as if
he were a doctor. (Он говорил так, как-будто он доктор).
4. I suggest
that he should
go there too. (Я предлагаю, чтобы он тоже туда пошел).
Helen his address she would visit him. (Знай Елена его адрес, она бы навестила его).
6. It is necessary
that he should come
. (Необходимо, чтобы он пришел).
Conditional sentences of the third type
express suppositions referring to the past
and that is why they are unrealizable.
Like the Conditional sentences of the second type they correspond in Russian language to the Conditional sentences with a verb in Subjunctive mood
(i.e. with a verb in the form of past tens with a particle бы
in Russian language).
In the Conditional sentences of the third type in the subordinate clause (in the condition) there used the form of Past
and in the main clause (in the consequence) there used a combination would with Perfect Infinitive (without to
Ex. If your instructions had been received**
ten days ago, the goods would have been shipped
by the S.S “Svir” yesterday. (Если бы
ваши указания были получены
десять дней назад, товар был бы отгружен
вчера пароходом «Свирь»).
** We have here the form of Subjunctive mood which coincides with the form of Past Perfect of Indicative mood.
The unreal condition of the past moment
can be expressed also by other ways:
1. Without using of conjunction If:
I seen him
yesterday I should have informed him. (Увидь я его вчера, я бы сообщил ему об этом.)
2. By using of the model verb might:
Ex. He might
have done it if he tried.
(Он смог бы это сделать, если бы попытался).
4. By using of the verb wish
Ex. I wish(ed
) I had known him then.
(Как жаль, что я его не знала тогда).
It is worth while giving example of the case of using the Conditional sentences of the mixed type:
Ex. If you had worked
harder then you would know
English better. (Если бы ты занимался усерднее (раньше, когда-то), (сейчас) ты бы знал английский лучше).
Finally, it is appropriate mention here those scholars who devoted themselves to studying the problems of moods:
M. Deutschbein (he
proposed 16 moods);
Prof. Smirnitsky (
he proposed the system of 6 moods: indicative, imperative, subjunctive1, subjunctive2, suppositional and conditional);
Prof. G. Vorontsova;
M. Gantina and N. Vasilevskaya and others.