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Take a journey with Dan as he hunts down the  mysterious subjunctive verb form! Can he find any examples hiding in the corridors of the BBC, in just 90 seconds?

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Hunting down the subjunctive

Do not adjust your screen… Dan leads us on a strange journey through the corridors of the BBC to look for a rare verb form – the subjunctive. Can he find any examples to share with you?

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Hi guys. Dan from BBC Learning English here. Deep in the darkest heart of the BBC.

We’re on a quest for the very rare subjunctive verb form.

They used to be everywhere in old English but in modern English they are much harder to find. It is vital that we be here for no longer than 90 seconds. Are you ready? Go!

So, the subjunctive is a verb form which expresses possible, unreal, imaginary or desirable situations. We see it most often in conditionals and wishes. But it can still be found in a few other very useful places.

"I've found some! Finally!"

One place subjunctives can be found is in sentences that start: It + be + an adjective:

It is important that you go as soon as possible

It’s essential that he see a doctor

It’s crucial that they leave the building

It’s best that you not be at the meeting

These verb forms here are subjunctives. Notice that with a third person subjunctive – he, she and it – we don’t add an s and to make a negative subjunctive we use not.

These sentences are very formal.

The other place we can find a subjunctive is with verbs like recommend and suggest. Again the same rules apply:

I suggest that you be there on time

I recommend that he not drink so much again

And that’s it! Maybe they aren’t so rare after all. For more information and a full transcript of everything that was said here, go to BBC Learning English.com.

Summary

The subjunctive is a verb form which expresses possible, unreal, imaginary or desirable situations. We see it most often in conditionals and wishes.

We also find it in sentences that start with: It + be + an adjective:

It is important that you go as soon as possible

It’s essential that he see a doctor

It’s crucial that they leave the building

It’s best that you not be at the meeting

These sentences are very formal. Notice that the form of the subjunctive is almost always the same as the form of the infinitive (except for be).

The other place we can find a subjunctive is with verbs like recommend and suggest:

I suggest that you be there on time

I recommend that he not drink so much again

To do

Practise the subjunctive with our quiz.

I recommend that you answer these questions!

3 Questions

How much did you understand? Use the subjunctive to complete these sentences...

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  • The subjunctive expresses possible, unreal, imaginary or desirable situations.

    We see it most often in conditionals and wishes.

    We also find it in sentences that start with: 

    It + be + an adjective:

    It is important that you go as soon as possible

    It’s essential that he see a doctor