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The Subjunctive is used to emphasise urgency or importance. The Subjunctive form is used with the simple form of the verb i.e. the infinitive without 'to'; to go is 'go'. The Subjunctive is only used with certain verbs and in certain forms.

The Subjunctive is used with certain expressions:

I suggest that he go.
It is essential that we be there.
It was recommended that he make the speech.

The Subjunctive is not easily recognisable in certain forms and tenses. It is not noticeable with 'you' but it is noticeable with 'he'.
You try to study hard.
It is important that you try to study hard. This is the subjunctive form but it is no different to the first example which is not.

He tries to study hard.
It is important that he try to study hard. The difference between 'He tries' and the subjunctive 'he try' is more noticeable here.

Here are some verbs after which the Subjunctive is used:

To advise (that)
To ask (that)
To demand (that)
To desire (that)
To insist (that)
To propose (that)
To recommend (that)
To request (that)
To suggest (that)
To urge (that)

The committee requested that Peter submit his proposals by the end of the week.
We insist that all the trainees be on time.
The company request Mr. Jones come to the meeting.

The Subjunctive is also used after the following expressions:

It is best (that)
It is crucial (that)
It is desirable (that)
It is essential (that)
It is imperative (that)
It is important (that)
It is recommended (that)
It is urgent (that)
It is vital (that)
It is a good idea (that)
It is a bad idea (that)
It is important that you be there.
It is recommended that he take a month’s leave of absence.

The Subjunctive is used in the negative, continuous and passive forms.

The company asked that their employees not accept personal calls at work.
It  was recommended that she be hired for the post.
It is important that a car be waiting when the delegates arrive.

After many of the expressions above, the word 'should' is sometimes used to express the idea of the Subjunctive. This form is more frequent in British English and is more common after 'suggest', 'recommend' and 'insist'.

It was recommended that she should see a specialist.
The tutor suggested that Sarah should try to study harder.

Lesson by Tristan, teacher at EC Malta English school

Now select the correct form for the following:

  • 1. It is important that he _ to reply to the letter at once.

  • 2. I suggest that Peter _ to the customer complaints himself.

  • 3. He demanded that the problem _ addressed immediately.

  • 4. It is recommended that you _ at the courts for the ruling.

  • 5.The professor insisted that we _ our research within a month.

  • 6. It is important to remember that he _ things very differently to you.

  • 7. Due to the inclement weather it was advised that the ship _ sail.

  • 8. It is an interesting fact that the director _ from France.

  • 9. The receptionist at the resort suggested that we _ sun cream before we went out in the sun.