Here’s another of those topics that is likely to strike fear into the hearts of parents, if not teachers and pupils: the subjunctive mood.
Also known as the subjunctive form, it’s one of those aspects of grammar that most of us do all the time without thinking. Nevertheless, there’s a good chance that a large proportion of the population would just stare blankly at you if you were to ask them to explain what it is.
The trouble is, there is plenty of scope for errors and misunderstandings. Were you to follow some of these tips, you could become more confident in your teaching.
What is the subjunctive form?
Getting down to basics, make sure you understand what the subjunctive is. First, understand that it is not a tense, more like a mood of a verb – one that can be either wishful or bossy. It can also indicate a level of formality that would seem out of place in all but a few specific contexts. More about that later.
Subjunctive forms – Hypothetically speaking
Possibly the most common use of the subjunctive in English involves expressing an idea about the future. This could involve an objective, suggestion, hope or even doubt. The main point is that it is not a certainty; it is a hypothesis. That is why it usually involves the words if and were.
Subjunctive form examples – past subjunctive
If you were asked to give subjunctive sentence examples, what would you suggest? A little wishful thinking wouldn’t go amiss here. If I were you, I would make a joke about it. “If I were to win a few million on the lottery, I would not be here talking to you lot, no offence. If I were very rich, I would buy an island in the Caribbean.” That might get them thinking!
Subjunctive form worksheets
Then you can give them the chance to practise themselves by writing about their own hopes and dreams. No doubt you could think of a stimulus yourself but, if you’re stuck for ideas, why not draw inspiration from our quirky and imagination-boosting Write Now! collection (exclusively for full Plazoom members)? Amongst other aspirations, these English grammar writing prompts could put your pupils in the position of being an astronaut setting foot on the moon or even taking charge of the process of interviewing for a new teacher at your school!
Subjunctive mood and modal verbs
As your pupils begin to get their heads around the subjunctive mood, draw their attention towards something that often goes hand in hand with it – the modal verb. It should almost come instinctively to them. For example, they should see a pattern emerging that when they start with If I were this … they will very often continue with a modal clause, such as I would do that … or I could have the other.
Subjunctive form KS2 – Formal uses
It is perhaps curious that the other main branch of the subjunctive form has such a different emphasis. At the other end of the scale from the wishful application we have the bossy version. In this case, we get the subjunctive not only suggesting something is compulsory, but also stating it in a rather stiff, formal way. For example, It is expected that a teacher know the rules of grammar inside out. Instead of using the if – were combination, this often uses a that – be pairing: We suggest that you be ready by six.
To the infinitive and beyond
One of the best ways to recognise this mandatory version of the subjunctive is the way that the verb being referred to by the that takes the root or infinitive form. As suggested in point 6, this is often be but not necessary so. For example, She was advised that she arrive no later than midday. We suggest that you bring a change of clothing. It is recommended that the headteacher give a pay rise to all staff.
KS2 grammar displays
Were you to want all this to stick in the minds of your pupils, you might want to make a show of it. We suggest that you acquire a copy of our KS2 SPaG display pack to that end…
Subjunctive mood practise
Of course, the best way to achieve a secure understanding of this topic is to provide plenty of opportunities to practise. If you were to use our subjunctive teaching resources such as this SPaG Challenge Mat, you would save yourself a lot of bother, as it gives pupils the chance to secure and apply their understanding through a range of appealing activities.
SATs revision – SPaG
Obviously, you will want to provide your pupils with opportunities to demonstrate their mastery of the subjunctive form in their independent writing. However, there are other places, such as GPS SATs, where they will typically need to identify it. Make sure that your pupils know the trigger word for this; very often, questions will ask pupils to identify the most formal sentences, rather than mentioning the subjunctive at all.
So, we ask that you be honest with yourself: do you feel more confident about the subjunctive now? If you were to plan teaching it, would you know where to find help? Were you to say yes, we would be delighted. If you would like more practise, why not see how many examples of the subjunctive form you can find in this article?
Subjunctive form meaning
The subjunctive is a verb form which shows things that could or should happen. You use it to show things like hopes, dreams, demands and suggestions.
Subjunctive form examples
- I suggest you write it in the past tense.
- I wish this wasn’t just a hypothetical situation.
- I wouldn’t do that If I were you.
- I demand an answer!
- Mrs Brown asks that you help out