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Subjunctive (1): suggest

January 21, 2013

The subjunctive mood existed in English as we have it in Spanish. However, English grammar underwent massive simplification processes, and that’s why it’s a language easy to learn. (English at the Advanced level is not that easy, but learning to manage in English is easy.) The same happened with noun declensions. And today, we just have the remains of Subject Pronouns (I) versus Object Pronouns (me), the possessives (my / mine) and of course, the Saxon Genitive (María’s).

When you study Conditional Sentences Type 2, you learn one of the remains of the Subjunctive mood: If I were rich, I’d travel the world. However, increasingly we hear the Indicative here (was), so in textbooks you will find the option was/were. In any case, certain sentences, like “If I were rich” are so often said, that they tend to fossilize in this state! to put it dramatically!! 😀

Another issue this pops up in is “suggest” and “recommend”. That they are followed by a subject and a verb in the subjunctive means that the verb can only look like the bare infinitive: I suggest we be early. The good news is that in some cases you might not know but you’ll still be correct!!: I suggest WE leave early.

Proponer que nos marchemos / lleguemos pronto

  • I suggested we leave / be early (subj)
  • I suggested we should leave early
  • I suggested we left* early

*The use of the indicative here results from the tendency in the use of English to “make language regular and avoid the irregular”. Decades ago, this was considered unacceptable, but nowadays it is standard, which means, native speakers are using the past increasingly.

Proponer que se marchara pronto + the Possessive Adjective / Object Pronoun + -ing structure. This is often found in literature, but it is also possible in spoken English.

  • I suggest our leaving / being early (possessive adjective “our”, or “his”, “her”…)
  • I suggest us leaving / being early (object pronoun “us”, or “him”, “her”…)
  • She suggested our/his/her leaving / being early
  • She suggested us/him/her leaving / being early

Oh my! I need a secretary!!! I’ve got notes on this on Talking People, but I should review those to include the “be” and the “she” examples… Anyway, no more time for this. Feel free to post more Useful Language or questions.

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