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katpigott
02-21-2007, 02:48 AM
For some reason I cannot seem to get my brain around the subjunctive (when to use was/were after "if").

It is clear to me that one should use "were" with a wish, an unlikely situation, or a hypothetical, but what about the following sentence:

"I knew I had to love soccer if I (was/were) going to work at it every day ."

ErylRavenwell
02-21-2007, 03:21 AM
"I was going" is past continuous.

"if I were to work" is subjunctive.

I were going is wrong.

maestrowork
02-21-2007, 04:06 AM
I think your sentence should have been:

"I would have loved soccer if I had worked at it every day."

Otherwise, I don't think it should be in subjunctive mood. It could very well be:

"I knew I had to love soccer if I was going to work at it every day." -- it's a simple statement in past tense.

Judg
02-21-2007, 04:49 AM
Kat, the subjunctive is falling into such disuse that it's my understanding that it is generally considered acceptable to not use it at all. Mind you, I haven't done a tour of the authoritative sources, so take that for what it's worth.

If I understand your sentence correctly, your character is feeling obliged to love soccer because he/she is going to be forced to practice it every day. If that's the situation, the subjunctive wouldn't be appropriate, because it is going to happen. He/she IS going to work at soccer every day.

Wayne and Shuster did a delightful little comedy sketch in which a bum on the street is singing "If I was a rich man". A fellow taps him on the shoulder and says, "Excuse me, shouldn't that be if I WERE a rich man?" The bum replies in his snootiest tones, "Well, EXCUSE me. If I WERE a rich man, I would USE the subjunctive!" That song is a great example of where the subjunctive is appropriate - the singer is not rich and is fantasizing. The subjunctive is described as the mood of doubt, to be used when the reality of a situation is doubtful at best, and often not even that.

Hope this helps a bit.

ErylRavenwell
02-21-2007, 04:53 AM
"I would have loved soccer if I had worked at it every day."

If you pay closer attention to the nuance, you'll realise the above deviate from the original in meaning.

The logic of the above: I work hard, then I'll like soccer.

Logic of the original: I must love soccer to work hard at it.

You see the nuance?

ErylRavenwell
02-21-2007, 04:59 AM
If I understand your sentence correctly, your character is feeling obliged to love soccer because he/she is going to be forced to practice it every day. If that's the situation, the subjunctive wouldn't be appropriate, because it is going to happen. He/she IS going to work at soccer every day

Well, the condition to work at soccer is to love it. But still the goal (that is to work at it everyday) is a wish. Subjunctive may be appropriate here, but I see no problem with using "was going".

Judg
02-21-2007, 05:06 AM
Eryl, I think you're right, that this is not a situation for the subjunctive. Without a context, it's a little difficult to tell. Kat would have to tell us what the situation is exactly, but as far as I can tell, the indicative is, uh, indicated here...

ErylRavenwell
02-21-2007, 05:23 AM
Eryl, I think you're right, that this is not a situation for the subjunctive. Without a context, it's a little difficult to tell. Kat would have to tell us what the situation is exactly, but as far as I can tell, the indicative is, uh, indicated here...

The subjunctive is such a nightmare and it is temporal as well. God bless the day it'd fall into disuse. (The irony "God bless" is subjunctive).

maestrowork
02-21-2007, 07:43 AM
If you pay closer attention to the nuance, you'll realise the above deviate from the original in meaning.

The logic of the above: I work hard, then I'll like soccer.

Logic of the original: I must love soccer to work hard at it.

You see the nuance?


Exactly, and that's why the subjunctive mood doesn't work here.

Maryn
02-23-2007, 06:28 PM
Remember, too, that the voice of the narrator trumps absolute correctness. If that first-person "I" is someone who'd use subjunctive correctly in thought and speech, great, but few people do, including people with advanced degrees in English or Lit.

Maryn, who has a friend who uses it

Jamesaritchie
02-23-2007, 06:45 PM
I keep hearing that the subjunctive is falling into disuse. Nonsense. It sure isn't in disuse with editors, with agents, with grammarians, or with the majority of readers. It's simple stuff, and I don't think anything makes a would be writer seem more illiterate than poor use of the subjunctive.

Grammar is not rocket science, and you don't have to have a Ph.D. in nuclear physics to get it right. You just have to open the right grammar books and actually read them.

The subjunctive is alive and well, and misuse of it is a common reason for rejection. I'm darned if I'm going to buy a story that needs this kind of work. It just tells me the writer wants to write, but somehow doesn't have the time, or doesn't see the importance, of actually learning anything about how to write.

The only thing falling into disuse is the work ethic. Wanting to be a writer, but not wanting to master basic grammar, and the subjunctive is very basic grammar, is simply a lack of work ethic.

Higgins
02-23-2007, 07:42 PM
I keep hearing that the subjunctive is falling into disuse. Nonsense. It sure isn't in disuse with editors, with agents, with grammarians, or with the majority of readers. It's simple stuff, and I don't think anything makes a would be writer seem more illiterate than poor use of the subjunctive.

Grammar is not rocket science, and you don't have to have a Ph.D. in nuclear physics to get it right. You just have to open the right grammar books and actually read them.

The subjunctive is alive and well, and misuse of it is a common reason for rejection. I'm darned if I'm going to buy a story that needs this kind of work. It just tells me the writer wants to write, but somehow doesn't have the time, or doesn't see the importance, of actually learning anything about how to write.

The only thing falling into disuse is the work ethic. Wanting to be a writer, but not wanting to master basic grammar, and the subjunctive is very basic grammar, is simply a lack of work ethic.

Very true. Plus to understand the giant in Jack and the Beanstalk, you need to know that "be he alive or be he dead" is subjunctive. the Subjunctive can be quite menacing.