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Subject: Subjunctive vs. indicative following 'if'-clauses in English
Question: To whom it may concern: I came across the following graphic on Facebook (https://fbcdn- snc6/208097_505755036104309_1918646052_n.jpg) and became curious about whether or not there are any systematic studies that document whether English speakers consistently maintain the distinction between the subjunctive and the indicative in clauses starting with 'if'. Is this graphic simply illustrating a prescriptive rule, and if not, is this perhaps dialect-specific? Any leads on scholars who have worked on this question would be greatly appreciated! Thank you, Calvin Cheng
Reply: Hi, Calvin, For the vast majority of American English speakers (and, I believe, across nearly all dialects) the use of the 'subjunctive' is pretty rare. I personally have never run across this 'rule' before, but I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that the author of this graphic studied Latin or some other language that does make systematic use of a subjunctive, and made the rule up for English. I happen to be one of a dying breed who naturally use the subjunctive, since my parents used it, and even I only sometimes use it. However, in the example with 'was' I would be absolutely comfortable using 'were', at least as much as in the first example. Still, the use is unusual enough that I now would be unlikely to notice someone not using the subjunctive where the prescriptive rule would require it. And btw, that rule basically requires 'were' in an 'if' clause across the board, if I remember correctly. Jim James L. Fidelholtz Graduate Program in Language Sciences Instituto de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades Benem'erita Universidad Aut'onoma de Puebla, M'EXICO
Reply From: James L Fidelholtz      click here to access email
Date: 08-Oct-2012
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Subjunctive vs. indicative following 'if'-clauses in English    Anthea Fraser Gupta     (13-Oct-2012)
  2. Re: Subjunctive vs. indicative following 'if'-clauses in English    Geoffrey Richard Sampson     (15-Oct-2012)

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