- relating to or denoting a mood of verbs expressing what is imagined or wished or possible. Compare with indicative.
mid 16th century: from French subjonctif, -ive or late Latin subjunctivus, from subjungere (see subjoin), rendering Greek hupotaktikos 'subjoined'
... if I were you; the report recommends that he face the tribunal; it is important that they be aware of the provisions of the act. These sentences all contain a verb in the subjunctive mood. The subjunctive is used to express situations which are hypothetical or not yet realized, and is typically used for what is imagined, hoped for, demanded, or expected. In English the subjunctive mood is fairly uncommon (especially in comparison with other languages such as French and Spanish), mainly because most of the functions of the subjunctive are covered by modal verbs such as might, could, and should. In fact, in English the subjunctive is often indistinguishable from the ordinary indicative mood, since its form in most contexts is identical. It is distinctive only in the third person singular, where the normal indicative -s ending is absent (he face rather than he faces in the example above), and in the verb ‘to be’ (I were rather than I was and they be rather than they are in the examples above). In modern English the subjunctive mood still exists but is regarded in many contexts as optional. Use of the subjunctive tends to convey a more formal tone but there are few people who would regard its absence as actually wrong. Today it survives mostly in fixed expressions, as in be that as it may; God help you; perish the thought; and come what may.