Subjunctive Mood: Basic Rules You Should Know

Subjunctive mood is a special form of verb usage and, unfortunately, it is quickly disappearing from the language. It is often considered complicated even by native English speakers and, therefore, omitted in the written and spoken language. People who try to use the subjunctive mood make a lot of mistakes, without ever being aware of it. However, the proper usage of subjunctive mood in your writing is always very positively regarded and is a sign of exceptional grammar skills and intelligence.

If you apply the subjunctive mood in your essay, there is no doubt that professor will notice your effort and grant you a higher grade. That is why today’s article is dedicated to the subjunctive mood and its proper usage. We will try to understand what the subjunctive mood is, what its purpose, how it is formed and also different types of subjunctive mood. It may be not the easiest grammar aspect, but it shouldn’t scare you, because you have Royal Editing on your side. You can always send us your essay or another academic paper for revision, and our editors will check if you used the subjunctive mood correctly. Don’t hesitate about it, because our prices are very moderate and there exist many generous discounts for students and first-time customers.

Subjunctive Mood: Definition and Functions

On our blog you can find dozens of helpful articles dedicated to different aspects of grammar and editing, and today we will focus on getting acquainted with the subjunctive mood. However, before we learn the basic rules on using the subjunctive mood, we must figure out what it is and why we need it. Subjunctive mood is a form of a verb used to express conditional or unreal imagined situations. In other words it speculated about ideas, which are opposed to the fact.

You can often see the subjunctive mood in the depending clause sentences beginning with the word if. Otherwise, it is used after verbs that express a wish, doubt, regret, demand, request or proposal.

Subjunctive Mood Rules to Remember

Subjunctive mood can seem very tricky at first, but if you learn these basic rules, it will be easier for you to recognize this structure when you see it and to use it correctly in your own writing. Don’t avoid using some grammatical structures, because you are not sure that you do it right. It would make your prose poor and dull. Rather trust your paper to professional editing services afterwards, and they will correct your errors and send you the edited version, with track changes, so you would be able to learn on your own mistakes.

Therefore, if you want to get the subjunctive mood right, remember that:

  • It is most often preceded by verbs: demand, insist, determine, ask, prefer, recommend, request, suggest, require, wish, regret, etc. When you see such verbs in a sentence, it must signal you that you will likely need to use the subjunctive;
  • The subjunctive mood is also frequently accompanied by the following adjectives: crucial, essential, important, imperative, and necessary.
  • The third person singular in the present tense loses the –s or –es at the ending (E.g. The director demanded that the movie be cut);
  • Regardless of what the subject is, in the subjunctive mood, for the present tense, the verb to be will turn into be, and for the past tense it will always be were (E.g. If only he were with us today).

Subjunctive Mood Mistakes

In writing people who try to create the subjunctive mood keep making the same mistakes. Most of them related to confusing the non-subjunctive forms of the verbs with their subjunctive forms. In other words, it is inappropriate usage of the verb to be and the endings in the third person singular. Let’s us revise these mistakes and also look at the corrected versions of the sentences, so you would be able to avoid the similar errors in the future.

Non-subjunctive form

Non-subjunctive form example

Subjunctive form

Subjunctive form example


He is heard.


It is crucial that he be heard.


She was invited.


If she were invited, she would go.

the –s/-es ending

He leaves.

cut the –s/-es

We demanded that he leave the college.

past tense

The client bought.

use the present tense (without –s/-es ending) instead

They suggested the client buy the machine.

6 Types of Subjunctive Mood

It is easier to distinguish and understand the subjunctive mood, when is divided it into six different categories. Each of these forms has its own particular purpose. Let’s try to define these subjunctive mood forms and their main functions:

  • Counterfactual. This subjunctive mood form allows the writer to imply some idea, which contradicts the actual situation. For example: If I were you, I would never buy this car;
  • Imperative. This type of subjunctive is used to express demands and commands. For example: The teacher demanded that they leave the classroom;
  • Necessity. This form indicates that something needs or required to be done. For example: It is necessary that he apply before the end of the month;
  • Proposition. This type of subjunctive mood is used for making proposals and suggestions. For example: I suggested that we organize everything by ourselves;
  • Supposition. This form allows us to explore a possibility of certain idea. For example: If she were to travel alone, she would have to arrange things better;
  • Wish. You can use this type of subjunctive mood if you want to express certain desire: I wish she were little again.

Formulaic Subjunctive

And the last but not least is the formulaic subjunctive. It presented in the form of stable idiomatic phrases. You cannot change or reinvent them. Therefore, it would be best if you learned them as they are, because you will greatly benefit from using them once in a while in your writing. Here are the most common ones:

Be that as it may…

God save the Queen!

Heaven forbid!

Long live the King!

God bless you.

Thy will be done. (Old English)

Be it known…

Be it remembered…

As you see, learning the subjunctive mood might take a while, and applying it in your writing — even longer. This form of verb usage is quickly disappearing from English language, because of its complexity. However, careful and intelligent writing requires the usage of the subjunctive mood. And you have no reason to worry about the proper usage of the subjunctive in your essays when you have Royal Editing by your side. With our expert editors and proofreaders, you can be sure that the subjunctive mood will be used properly in your papers.