Saturday, 26 February 2011

Lest we forget the subjunctive

The other day I commented over at Anna Raccoon's on a post about the English language and its misuse, asking if I was the only one out there who 'yearns to rehabilitate the subjunctive' (or rather I should have said I yearn that the subjunctive be rehabilitated).

In contrast to our cousins over the Atlantic, who have preserved its use to a far greater extent, it is rarely heard or seen in print in the old country. At least that's my impression, although perhaps now that I've said this, I will see it everywhere. Also, I am conscious of that thing when you write about correct English, you're bound to leave a few howling mistakes in your spelling or grammar, and I'm not 100 per cent sure exactly where the subjunctive leaves off and the imperative takes over, and this guy below may be blundering at the same point:

Anyway, here's the kind of tragic story all good Anglophones must struggle against:
The other day at work I was drafting an internal procedure and wrote, “It is important that the Department create procedures to . . .” After having showed it to my boss, he mentioned that there was a typo or grammatical error, and that it should have read, “It is important that the deparment creates procedures to . . .” I read the sentence over a couple of times and was convinced that my version was correct, and that the difference in conjugation was due to the fact that the sentence was imperative and required the use of the subjunctive. I was told that that might in fact be the case, but that I should still change it to “creates” because everyone who would read the document would see it as an error.
Thus I pledge never to bow to the tyranny of the majority in their ignorance, and will insist that the subjunctive be used whenever it be required, and even places where it be not!


George Speller said...

I used to daydream about being pulled up for "wrong English" and would always be careful to write, for example "you and me" where appropriate. But subjunctives . . . ooh er!

Trooper Thompson said...

I thought 'you and me' was wrong, according to some. I don't care too much on that one, or the misuse of 'hopefully' which is noted in the post at Anna Raccoon's, which I knew nothing about, and have innocently infracted. However, George, regarding the subjunctive, may the Force guide you.

alison said...

It's you and least that is what years of suffering through elocution lessons taught me. (Not in a finishing school father was simply terrified I would pick up a south London accent). When I turned sixteen I got a Saturday job in McDonalds in Bromley and never quite recovered from the experience of being ripped to shreds by the boys there for the way I spoke (nor hearing the way they described women - in such ghastly detail). Subjunctive is fine but too much of it and you start sounding like a pirate.

Trooper Thompson said...

I can only offer sympathies for your treatment at the hands of such oafs.

As for sounding like a pirate, that's funny. Is this the kind of thing you're thinking of?

alison said...

Ha! Yes :)

I won them round in the end. I never took myself too seriously and when they had figured that out they were a little nicer - and politer which was odd. Once they realised I hated listening to their conversations they shut up. After that all the girls hated me. You can't win.