Lesson Twenty-three

The Subjunctive Mood

The subjunctive mood has a very unusual affect on verbs in a sentence. When we studied conditional sentences in Orange Level Lessons 12 – 14, you noticed this same strange affect. That’s because the subjunctive mood and conditional sentences share some of the same qualities. Some teachers would even say they are the same thing.

You can use the subjunctive mood after verbs that request or ask, such as….

suggest, recommend, request, ask, require, demand, insist

What these verbs (and others not listed) have in common is that someone is asking you to do something. Watch this video and then try the exercises below:


As you can see from the video, the verb in the subjunctive mood remains in the simple form.

This is what the verb "be" looks like in the subjunctive mood when these verbs–suggest, recommend, request, ask, require, demand, insist–come before it:

I be
We be
You be
You be
He be
She be
They be
It be
  • The teacher asks that we be on time.
  • I recommend that you be at the airport before 9:00 a.m.
  • Don demands that his daughter be home before 11 p.m.
  • Our supervisor is demanding that we be available to work next weekend.

Strange, isn’t it? But for a native speaker, it’s sounds okay. Using the simple form of the verb in this type of sentence applies to other verbs as well:

I go
We go
You go
You go
He go
She go
They go
It go
  • Our coach demands that we go to bed early on the day before the big match.
  • The scholarship committee requires that he go to a college that is within the state of Minnesota.
  • If you must leave class early, I ask that you go quietly.

For additional practice, click here for an exercise.

The present subjunctive is almost the same as the present conditional that you learned about in Lesson Thirteen. These kinds of sentences usually use "if" or "wish."

If I were rich, I would give more money to charity.

I wish I were rich.

In both sentences, I am not rich. This is the situation now, but the verb "be" is in the past tense. You’ll also notice that the verb "be" doesn’t seem to match the subject. Here’s yet another strange thing about the subjunctive mood. Take note of how the verb "be" is conjugated in the present subjunctive:

I were
We were
You were
You were
He were
She were
They were
It were


All the other verbs–regular or irregular–take the past tense in the present subjunctive but only the verb "be" seems to violate the rules of subject-verb agreement. Let’s look at a few more verbs:

If she had time, she would go to the party.

She wishes she had the time.

(She doesn’t have time now, so she isn’t going to the party.)


If they didn’t need the help, they wouldn’t ask for it.

(Do they need help? Yes. That’s why they are asking for it.)


He wishes he didn’t have to leave.

(Does he have to leave? Yes. But he would rather stay.)

Practice write by hand

Make sentences in the subjunctive mood using the information that is available to you. Write your answers in a notebook:

Example: He isn’t late. He doesn’t need to talk to the teacher after class.

Answer: If he were late, he would need to talk to the teacher after class.

1. I’m a teacher. I’m not a farmer.


2. She isn’t angry. She isn’t saying anything.


3. He doesn’t have a car. He can’t drive.


4. The students don’t need books. They don’t need to ask for them.


5. It isn’t raining. We don’t need to go inside.



1. If I weren’t a teacher, I would be a farmer.

2. If she were angry, she would say something.

3. If he had a car, he could drive.

4. If the students needed books, they would ask for them.

5. If it were raining, we would need to go inside.

Next: Lesson Twenty-four