The SUBJUNCTIVE

To begin our survey of constructions using the Subjunctive, here is an 'overview' of the Mood itself, and the essential charts of formation - with examples. 

 

Click below to move quickly to particular sections of this page.
 


What does it mean?

Indicative versus Subjunctive

Tenses of the Subjunctive

Charts of Formation

Example verbs

Irregulars
 

 

 

 

 


 

The SUBJUNCTIVE


      One of the first questions people always ask when they discover the existence of the Subjunctive is "What does it MEAN?"

      This is natural and understandable enough; but it is also almost impossible to answer - in a short way at least!


      Probably the most honest answer (if not the most helpful or satisfying….) is "It depends how it's being used." Only when the construction it is part of, and (maybe) the conjunction which introduces it, have been identified can you really be sure how to translate it.


    On this page (and those following) we will explain the various occasions when you are likely to meet it, and attempt to answer the question properly.

 

 

 



 

INDICATIVE  v.  SUBJUNCTIVE

 

    One thing that is true to an extent is that the Indicative and Subjunctive 'MOODS' of the verb are generally the 'opposite' of each other:

      An INDICATIVE verb "indicates" a fact, i.e. is generally used when someone IS doing, WILL do or HAS actually done something. This is why Main Clause verbs in Latin are usually Indicative: they are making a factual statement.

      With a SUBJUNCTIVE verb, however, it is far less cut-and-dried: it is often used to suggest things that MAY or COULD happen in certain circumstances, e.g. if someone achieves a particular purpose, or follows an order. The words "may, might, would, could, should" are all associated with the Subjunctive - and are indeed the words representing a Subjunctive verb in English.

     Not even this distinction always holds good however! In constructions such as Result /Consequence clauses, or after the conjunction "CUM", for example, verbs in the Subjunctive definitely do actually happen….!

 

   I suppose the truest general statement that can be made is to say that the Subjunctive is VERY RARELY, if ever, the MAIN VERB in a sentence; it is nearly always in a dependent clause, relying on an Indicative verb to supply the main idea of the sentence's meaning.




THAT CLEARS THAT ONE UP, THEN….(?!)

 

 

 



 

 

FORMING & RECOGNISING THE SUBJUNCTIVE


            To be able to recognise a Subjunctive verb in a sentence, it really helps to know how the various tenses are formed.

Most verbs in Latin have FOUR subjunctive tenses:

                     PRESENT
                     IMPERFECT
                     PERFECT
                     PLUPERFECT

     These can exist in both the Active and Passive.


     In certain circumstances it is also possible to find a so-called 'Future Subjunctive'; most reference books however refuse to classify this as a fully-fledged tense, which seems a little unfair considering that it is formed in a very similar way to some of the 'official' subjunctive tenses!

      Perhaps someone needs to start a Future Subjunctive Support and Appreciation Society….

     I shall include details of its formation on the page of the construction where you will actually come across it (namely the Indirect Question).

 

 

 


 

   For now, here are the 'official' tenses:

 

          CHART OF FORMATION


     When trying to learn these, it is useful to remember that each Principal Part is used twice - but not necessarily for the same tense! I have colour-coded the chart to represent which tenses are formed from which Principal Part:

          

         e.g.    MITTO    MITTERE   MISI    MISSUM 

 

ACTIVE

PASSIVE

PRESENT

Take 1st Principal Part.

Remove "-O".
For AMO verbs - add vowel 'E'
All other verbs - add vowel 'A'
Then add the Active person endings 
(-m, -s, -t, etc.)

 

AS ACTIVE, except using the PASSIVE person endings
(-r, -ris, -tur, -mur,
-mini, -ntur.)

IMPERFECT


Take 2nd Principal Part.

Without removing anything, add the Active person endings.

AS ACTIVE, except using the PASSIVE person endings.

PERFECT

Take 3rd Principal Part.

Remove "-I"

(giving the Perfect Stem).

Add the endings:

-ERIM, -ERIS, -ERIT,

-ERIMUS, -ERITIS,

-ERINT.


Take 4th Principal Part.

Change "-UM" 

to "-US -a -um" (giving the Past Participle).

ADD (as separate words)

SIM, SIS, SIT,

SIMUS, SITIS, SINT.

PLUPERFECT


As PERFECT ACTIVE, except

using endings:

-ISSEM, -ISSES, -ISSET,

-ISSEMUS, ISSETIS,

-ISSENT.

As PERFECT PASSIVE, except add

ESSEM, ESSES, ESSET, ESSEMUS, ESSETIS, ESSENT (also separate words).

 


   
Note #1: With PERFECT & PLUPERFECT PASSIVE, the endings "-US (-a -um)" change to "-I (-ae -a)" for the Plural persons of the verb.

    Note #2: "SIM" and "ESSEM" (etc.) are actually the Present and Imperfect Subjunctives of 'SUM'. See below.

    Note #3: Another way of forming the Pluperfect Subjunctive (both Active & Passive) is to take the Perfect INFINITIVES (Act/Pass) and add the Person endings -m, -s, -t, etc. This corresponds to the way the Imperfect Subjunctive is formed from the Present Infinitive.

 

 

 

 


 

 

        EXAMPLE CHARTS

 

     1.   PARO  -ARE  -AVI  -ATUM  (1, regular)

 

 

ACTIVE

PASSIVE

PRESENT


PAREM
PARES
PARET
PAREMUS
PARETIS
PARENT

PARER
PARERIS
PARETUR
PAREMUR
PAREMINI
PARENTUR

IMPERFECT

PARAREM

PARARES

PARARET

PARAREMUS

PARARETIS

PARARENT

PARARER

PARARERIS

PARARETUR

PARAREMUR

PARAREMINI

PARARENTUR

PERFECT

PARAVERIM

PARAVERIS

PARAVERIT

PARAVERIMUS

PARAVERITIS

PARAVERINT

PARATUS  SIM

PARATUS  SIS

PARATUS  SIT

PARATI  SIMUS

PARATI  SITIS

PARATI  SINT

PLUPERFECT


PARAVISSEM

PARAVISSES

PARAVISSET

PARAVISSEMUS

PARAVISSETIS

PARAVISSENT

 

PARATUS  ESSEM

PARATUS  ESSES

PARATUS  ESSET

PARATI  ESSEMUS

PARATI  ESSETIS

PARATI  ESSENT

      

 

 

   2.   MITTO  MITTERE  MISI  MISSUM (3)

 

 

ACTIVE

PASSIVE

PRESENT


MITTAM
MITTAS
MITTAT
MITTAMUS
MITTATIS
MITTANT

MITTAR
MITTARIS
MITTATUR
MITTAMUR
MITTAMINI
MITTANTUR

IMPERFECT

 

MITTEREM

MITTERES

MITTERET

MITTEREMUS

MITTERETIS

MITTERENT

MITTERER

MITTERERIS

MITTERETUR

MITTEREMUR

MITTEREMINI

MITTERENTUR

PERFECT


MISERIM

MISERIS

MISERIT

MISERIMUS

MISERITIS

MISERINT

 

MISSUS  SIM

MISSUS  SIS

MISSUS  SIT

MISSI  SIMUS

MISSI  SITIS

MISSI  SINT

PLUPERFECT


MISISSEM

MISISSES

MISISSET

MISISSEMUS

MISISSETIS

MISISSENT

 

MISSUS  ESSEM

MISSUS  ESSES

MISSUS  ESSET

MISSI  ESSEMUS

MISSI  ESSETIS

MISSI  ESSENT

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

    IRREGULARS

 

   Some of the Irregular Verbs form their PRESENT SUBJUNCTIVE irregularly. These are SUM (and its compounds, including POSSUM), VOLO, NOLO and MALO.

    All their other subjunctive tenses however follow normal formation rules.

    EO and FERO form all their subjunctives in the normal ways.

 

PRESENT

SUBJUNCTIVE

(ACTIVE)

SIM

SIS

SIT

SIMUS

SITIS

SINT

VELIM

VELIS

VELIT

VELIMUS

VELITIS

VELINT

NOLIM

NOLIS

NOLIT

NOLIMUS

NOLITIS

NOLINT

MALIM

MALIS

MALIT

MALIMUS

MALITIS

MALINT

 

 

    The following pages will attempt to explain the uses of the Subjunctive.