The topic teaching subjunctive

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THE TOPIC TEACHING SUBJUNCTIVE INTRODUCTION: The subjunctive is an important part in English. However, our English textbooks hardly cover this grammar point. So most students don’t know it thoroughly. In this short topic, I would like to introduce some basic theory of the subjunctive. As we know, there are three types of subjunctive: The present subjunctive, the past subjunctive and the past perfect subjunctive. A. THE PRESENT SUBJUNCTIVE I. FORM The present subjunctive has exactly the same form as the infinitive; therefore the present subjunctive of “to be” is “be’ for all persons, and the present subjunctive of all other verbs is the same as their present simple tense except that “s” or “es” is not added for the third person singular: Examples: The queen lives here. (present simple tense) Long live the queen! (present subjunctive) II. USE 1. The present subjunctive is used in certain exclamations to express a wish or hope, very often involving supernatural powers: Examples: Bless you! 1 God save the queen! Heaven help us! Curse this fog! Come what may, we’ll stand by you! Notice also the phrase “If need be”, which means “if it is necessary” If need be we can always bring another car. 2. It is sometimes used in poetry, either to express a wish or in clauses of condition or concession: Examples: STEVENSON: Fair the day shine as it shone in my childhood (May the day shine/ I hope it will shine) SHAKESPEARE: If this be error, and upon me proved…(if this is error) BYRON: Though the heart be still as loving…(though the heart is) 3. It is also used in the clause after some verbs: advise (that) ask (that) command (that) demand (that) desire (that) insist (that) propose (that) recommend (that) request (that) suggest (that) urge (that) 2 prefer that Examples: Dr. Smith asked that Mark submit his research paper before the end of the month. Donna requested Frank come to the party. The teacher insists that her students be on time. 4. It is used after some expressions, too: It is best (that) It is crucial (that) It is desirable (that) It is essential (that) It is imperative (that) It is important (that) It is recommended (that) It is urgent (that) It is vital (that) It is a good idea (that) It is a bad idea (that) Examples: It is crucial that you be there before Tom arrives. It is important she attend the meeting. It is recommended that he take a gallon of water with him if he wants to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. 5. We can use the present subjunctive for the present, past or future: Examples: 3 I insist that he have dinner with me. They insisted that I go with them. She demanded that he apologize to her 6. The present subjunctive can be used in negative, continuous and passive forms. Negative Examples: The boss insisted that Sam not be at the meeting. The company asked that employees not accept personal phone calls during business hours. I suggest that you not take the job without renegotiating the salary. Passive Examples: Jake recommended that Susan be hired immediately. Christine demanded that I be allowed to take part in the negotiations. We suggested that you be admitted to the organization. Continuous Examples: It is important that you be standing there when he gets off the plane. It is crucial that a car be waiting for the boss when the meeting is over. I propose that we all be waiting in Tim's apartment when he gets home. 7. Should is sometimes used instead of the present subjunctive after some verbs: suggest, recommend, propose, demand, insist. Examples: The doctor recommended that she should see a specialist about the problem. 4 Professor William suggested that Wilma should study harder for the final exam. Christine demanded that I should be allowed to take part in the negotiations. B. THE PAST SUBJUNCTIVE I. FORM The past subjunctive has exactly the same form as the past simple except that with the verb “be” the past subjunctive form is either I/he/she/it was or I/he/she/it were. In expressions of doubt or unreality were is more usual than was: Examples: I wish he worked today. He behaves as though he were the owner. (but he is not the owner.) If I were you, I would…..(I am not you) II. USE Past subjunctives are often known as “unreal pasts” 1. We can use the past subjunctive in the clauses after wish and if only to express regret about the present (to say that we would like something to be different). Examples: I wish I had a car. (I do not have a car) I wish he weren’t so horrible to me. (He is horrible to me) She wishes she could play the guitar. (She cannot play the guitar) If only we knew Maria’s address. (We do not know Maria’s address) 5 Wish can be put into the past without changing the subjunctive 2. The past subjunctive can be used after as if/ as though to indicate unreality or improbability or doubt in the present. Examples: He behaves as if he owned the place. (But he doesn’t own or probably doesn’t own it or we don’t know whether he owns or not) He talks as though he knew where she was. (But he doesn’t know or probably doesn’t know or we don’t know whether he knows or not) He orders me about as if I were his wife. (I am not his wife) The verb preceding as if / as though can be put into a past tense without changing the tense of the subjunctive: Example: He talks/ talked as though he knew where she was. 3. We can also use the past subjunctive after: It is time… It is high time… It is about time… Examples: It is time we went. It is high time he left the city. The past subjunctive in this case implies that it is a little late. It is time + I/he/she/it cannot be followed be were: Example: 6 It’s time I was going. Note that it is time can be followed by the infinitive: Example: It’s time to go. Or by for + object + infinitive Example: It’s time for us to go. 4. Subject + would rather/ would sooner is followed by subject+ past subjunctive when then two subjects are different: Examples: “Shall I give you a cheque?“ “I would rather you paid cash” I’d rather they didn’t smoke in my room. 5. The past subjunctive is also used in “if clauses” in the conditional sentences type 2. Examples: If I had a map I would lend it to you. (But I do not have a map) If I dyed my hair blue everyone would laugh at me. (But I do not intend to dye it) C. THE PAST PERFECT SUBJUNCTIVE I. FORM The past perfect subjunctive has exactly the same form as the past perfect (had+ past participle). Examples: 7 I wish I hadn’t spent so much money. If only he had been here yesterday. II. USE Past perfect subjunctives are also known as “unreal pasts” 1. We can use wish and if only with the past perfect subjunctive to express regret that something happened or did not happen in the past. Examples: Oh, I’m tired. I wish I had gone to bed earlier last night. (I did not go to bed early last night.) I wish I hadn’t stayed out so late. (I stayed out late.) If only you had explained the situation to me. (You did not explain the situation to me.) 2. After as if / as though we use a past perfect subjunctive when referring to a real or imaginary action in the past: Example: He talks about Rome as though he had been there himself. (But he hasn’t or probably hasn’t or we don’t know whether he has or not.) The verb preceding as if / as though can be put into a past tense without changing the tense of the subjunctive: Examples: He looks/ looked as though he hadn’t had a decent meal for a month. 3. The past perfect subjunctive is also used in “if clauses” in the conditional sentences type 3. Examples: 8 If I had known her address, I would have sent her a letter. (But I didn’t know her address, so I didn’t send) If he had tried to leave the country he would have been stopped at the frontier. (But he didn’t try) CONCLUSION: That is something about the subjunctive I would like to talk about. I believe they are useful to both teachers and students. In reality, some of them you can apply to your classes any suitable time. In the limit of the topic, I think what I have in it is only recommended. However, I strongly hope that the topic will be helpful in your teaching. At last, I really appreciate the ideas from you. Phu Vang, April, 2014 Writer Lê Văn Nhĩ REFERENCE BOOKS: 1. A practical English Grammar by A.J Thomson and A.V. Martinet 9 2. The Heinemann English Grammar by Digby Beaumont & Colin Granger. 3. Grammar in use by Raymond Murphy. PHẦN ĐÁNH GIÁ VÀ XẾP LOẠI HỘI ĐỒNG XÉT SÁNG KIẾN KINH NGHIỆM CỦA TRƯỜNG (Chủ tịch HĐ xếp loại, ký và đóng dấu) 10 ……………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………… Xếp loại: ………………………………………………………………… Vinh Xuân, ngày …..tháng ..….năm ……. CHỦ TỊCH HỘI ĐỒNG PHẦN ĐÁNH GIÁ VÀ XẾP LOẠI CỦA HỘI ĐỒNG XÉT SÁNG KIẾN KINH NGHIỆM SỞ GD&ĐT THỪA THIÊN HUẾ ……………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………… 11
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