Subjunctive Mood

One way that verbs can add emphasis to a sentence is through their use of moods. It refers to the form of a verb that indicates the speaker’s attitude toward the action or state expressed by the verb. Among the five verb moods, the subjunctive mood explains a hypothetical situation or expresses a wish, demand, or suggestion.

By understanding the various moods of a verb and the situations in which they are used, we can become more confident in our communication with language. This article explains subjunctive verb moods and examples and provides exercises to strengthen your knowledge.

What is Subjunctive Mood in English Grammar?

The subjunctive mood expresses hypothetical ideas or desires and reflects a subjective attitude toward the statement. It conveys hypothetical situations and expresses a wish, demand, or suggestion. In simple terms, it describes actions that have not happened.

Here are a few examples of sentences in the subjunctive mood:

  • If I were the leader, I would address the agricultural problem. (hypothetical situation)
  • Hannah wishes she were an astronaut. (wish)
  • I demand that he be present at the meeting. (demand)
  • Alma suggests that her cousin take a break. (suggestion)
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Subjunctive Mood Rules

The verbs in the subjunctive mood deviate from the regular tenses rule. In the sentence, “It is recommended that the management review its quarterly budget,” the main verb is in its base form instead of the third-person singular present tense (reviews).

The table below shows how to use the subjunctive mood:

Normal TenseExamplesSubjunctive Form / RuleSubjunctive Sentences
To be verbs is, am, and are are used in the present tenseJackson is here at the convention.

We are successful in this business.
Use the auxiliary verb “be” and drop its infinitive identifier “to.”I recommend that Jackson be here at the convention.

I wish that they be successful in this business.
‘Has’ agrees to the third person singular in the present tense. Use “have” if the subject is plural.William’s market has fresh vegetables.

The kids have complicated assignments.
Whether the subject is singular or plural, use “have” in the subjunctive mood.I wish William’s market have fresh vegetables.

The parents request the kids don’t have complicated assignments.
‘Was’ is used for first-person and third-person singular subjects in the past tense. ‘Were’ agrees with plural subjects in the past tense.Daniel was remorseful of his mistake.

Frank and his friends were famous theatre actors.
Always use “were” in the subjunctive mood.If I were Daniel, I would be remorseful for my actions.

Frank and his friends wish they were famous theatre actors.
Add ‘-s’ on the base verb for singular subjects in the present tense. Drop the “-s” when the subject is plural.The teacher delivers the lesson well.

The students listen attentively.
Whether the subject is singular or plural, use the base form of the verb in the subjunctive mood.I suggest the teacher deliver her lesson well.

The teacher recommends that her students listen attentively.
The verbs suggest, insist, command, wish
recommend, ask, order
and demand follow the subject-verb agreement in terms of tense and number (singular vs plural subject).
Fatima insists on buying a luxury bag.

They suggested getting free organic produce from the organization.
The enumerated verbs must follow the normal subject-verb agreement but the subsequent verbs remain in their base form.I insist that Fatima buy a luxury bag.

They suggested that we get free organic produce from the organization.
Use the adjectives important, necessary, essential, imperative, and crucial following the normal subject-verb agreement.It is necessary for the growth of a country for the people to have quality education.

Budgeting is an essential skill to avoid overspending.
To use the enumerated adjectives in the subjunctive mood, add “that” + object and retain the base form of the verb.It is necessary for the growth of the country that the government provide quality education to the people.

Budgeting is an essential skill that people study to avoid overspending.
Using “let” with a subject.They let me buy coffee even when they are about to close.

Gina let me borrow her iPad.
Starting the sentence with “let” and implying that the subject is “you.”Let them learn their lessons. (You let them learn their lessons.)

Let Anika decide on her own. (You let Anika decide on her own.)
Table of Rules for the Subjunctive Mood
English Grammar Learning Infographic

Optative Mood

The optative mood is closely related to the subjunctive mood. Like the subjunctive mood, it also expresses a wish. Its defining word is “may.”

Here are five examples of optative mood:

  • May we have a peaceful world.
  • May our dreams come true.
  • May the future be bright for all of us.
  • May we all live in harmony.
  • May justice prevail in our society.

Examples of Subjunctive Mood

Here are ten examples of sentences in the subjunctive form mood:

1. I demand that he be present at the meeting.

2. If I were you, I would take a different approach.

3. She wished she were a famous writer.

4. I suggest that you take a break from studying.

5. It is important that the students understand the material.

6. She insists that her son take piano lessons.

7. We recommend that they hire a professional photographer.

8. He wishes he were a rich business owner.

9. It is essential that the team work together.

10 . I propose that we try a new strategy.

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Subjunctive Mood Exercises with Answers

Determine whether the sentences below are in the subjunctive mood or not.

1. Valeria wished upon a shooting star last night.

2. She suggested that he take a rest from renovating the house.

3. The teacher requested that the students be quiet in class.

4. If I were you, I would go on vacation.

5. We asked the government to provide us with better healthcare services.

6. Mrs. Cruz insisted that her daughter attend ballet class every weekend.

7. I proposed that we develop a different strategy.

8. He wished for his situation to improve at the wishing well.

9. It is essential that the team work together effectively.

10. They recommended an experienced accountant for us to hire.


1. Not in the subjunctive mood 

2. Subjunctive mood

3. Subjunctive mood

4. Subjunctive mood

5. Not in the subjunctive mood

6. Subjunctive mood

7. Subjunctive mood

8. Not in the subjunctive mood

9. Subjunctive mood

10. Not in the subjunctive mood

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Subjunctive Mood List

Verbs that attract Subjunctive moodAdjectives that attract Subjunctive moodAuxiliary VerbsBase form of Verbs
suggest, insist, command, wish
recommend, ask, order,
and demand
important, necessary, essential, imperative, and crucialbe, have, and weredraw, walk, read, listen, agree, bake, calculate, nominate, grant, sell
Subjunctive Mood Table

Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners

English grammar, like any language, is a complex subject to study. Understanding and applying grammar rules can be challenging, especially for English language learners. However, your success in learning the language is dependent on your learning plan.

First, know that there are different levels of language proficiency. Knowing your status allows you to align it with your study materials and learning strategy. To keep your motivation, select beginner-friendly materials instead of university textbooks when starting. In doing so, you will feel less intimidated by the topics you should learn.

Second, focus on the basics: nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. Learn how to use them correctly in sentences and understand their meaning. It will help you build a strong foundation for your English language learning journey. Divide those topics into subtopics and learn each concept and rule one by one.

Third, find a reliable source of learning materials. Online resources such as websites, blogs, and YouTube videos are mostly free. LillyPad’s blog, for example, is a great resource for English language learning materials. Additionally, you can find books and other printed materials in your local library or bookstore.

Fourth, practice speaking the language with native speakers or other English learners. It will help you understand how to use the language correctly in conversations and improve your pronunciation.

Finally, be patient with yourself and don’t give up. Learning a language takes time and effort, so set realistic goals and celebrate your achievements along the way.

Additionally, it is important for learners to properly understand conditional mood, regular verbs, irregular verbs and infinitives.

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Common Mistakes Made by English Learners

Learning a new language can be difficult, and English is no exception. Even experienced English learners make mistakes when speaking or writing in the language. Here are some of the most common mistakes made by English learners:

Common MistakeWhy it HappensCorrectionExamples
Adding “to” before the base verb of a sentence in the subjunctive mood.Most learners are used to the infinitive form of the verb (to + base form). Since the subjunctive mood is an advanced topic in grammar, they might mistakenly add “to” before the base verb.Drop “to” when constructing sentences in the subjunctive mood. Infinitive verb: He wants to dance with Sharon.

Subjunctive mood: He asked that I dance with him.
Adding “-s” to the base verb that must be subjunctiveLearners tend to use the normal subject-verb agreement. They might carry that rule in the subjunctive mood.Subjunctive mood deviates from the normal subject-verb agreement. Hence, when in doubt, always use the base verb.Incorrect: I recommend that James assigns the project to Sean.

Correct: I recommend that James assign the project to Sean.
Subjunctive Mood Common Errors Table

Learning Strategies and Best Practices for the Subjunctive Mood

A holistic approach to learning a language makes it easier to understand and remember. The five macro skills, reading, listening, viewing, speaking, and writing, should be developed and used in the learning process for better language acquisition. The table below lists activities you can do when learning linking verbs:

Learning Strategies
Reading– Use flashcards to know basic English sight words and their meaning.
– Search for material that contains translations of common expressions from your native language to English.
– Select study materials appropriate for your language proficiency.
Listening– Listen to an audiobook or a song and write what you hear to improve your retention of English words.
– Compare and contrast two audio materials like TV ads and a speech.
– Summarize a podcast, movie, audiobook, and other English audio materials.
Viewing– Observe how native speakers speak and try to mimic it.
– Watch English movies, interviews, and tutorials.
– Use pictographs to learn and remember new words.
Speaking– Join a community of English language learners and communicate with them to improve and gain feedback.
– Integrate the language into your daily life and try to speak using English.
– Participate in speech organizations (e.g. debate clubs, theatre groups)
Writing– Write a journal of your learning journey in English.
– Answer practice tests and create your own sentences.
– Create a reflection essay on the media you watch or listen to.
Subjunctive Mood Learning Strategies Table
Learn English Grammar Infographic

Subjunctive Mood Frequently Asked Questions

A verb in the subjunctive mood is a verb form that expresses an action or state of being that is not necessarily real or factual. It is used to express wishes, demands, suggestions, or hypothetical situations. Examples include “I wish I were there,” and “I demand he be present.”

Both conditional and subjunctive moods express hypothetical situations. However, the conditional mood is used to express a situation that could be real, while the subjunctive mood is used to express a situation that is not necessarily real or factual. For example, “If I were you” is in the subjunctive mood, while “If I had more money” is in the conditional mood.

The subjunctive mood is used to express wishes, demands, suggestions, or hypothetical situations. Here are five examples of subjunctive mood:

1. I demand that you be responsive to my request.
2. I wish I were there with you in this difficult situation.
3. Joseph insists that we move abroad.
4. It is essential that she be given the opportunity to succeed.
5. Let him learn how to drive.

The five moods of verbs are indicative, imperative, subjunctive, conditional, and interrogative.

The indicative mood is used to make factual statements or ask questions about facts.

The imperative mood is used to give commands or make requests.

The subjunctive mood is used to express wishes, demands, suggestions, or hypothetical situations.

The conditional mood is used to express a situation that could be real. The interrogative mood is used to ask questions.

Mood and tense are both grammatical categories that describe how a verb is used in a sentence. The difference between them is that mood expresses the attitude of the speaker, while tense expresses when an action takes place.

For example, “I wish I were there” is in the subjunctive mood, expressing a wish, while “I was there yesterday” is in the past tense, expressing when the action took place.

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