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The revived subjunctive

Chapter in book
Authors Göran Kjellmer
Published in One Language, Two Grammars?
Pages 246-256
ISBN 9780511551970
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Place of publication Cambridge
Publication year 2009
Published at Department of Languages and Literatures
Pages 246-256
Language en
Subject categories Specific Languages


The reintroduction of subjunctive forms in Modern English is a fascinating story of the reshaping of an important section of the language. Verb forms like be shared in (1) It was decided that this proposal be shared were extremely rare up to less than a century ago, not to mention negated forms like not use in (2) Most dermatologists suggested that you not use these soaps, but today they are frequently met with in AmE and beginning to appear in BrE. Not surprisingly, the recent restructuring of the verb system has attracted the attention of linguists and resulted in a number of articles and at least one full-length study, Gerd Övergaard's The Mandative Subjunctive in American and British English in the 20th Century (1995). In the following, certain aspects of the process will be discussed. After a general background, dealing with the definition of terms and the history of the subjunctive in English, the discussion will fall into three parts: why the subjunctive returned in AmE, why it returned in BrE and why not occurs before the verb in negated subjunctive constructions. To illustrate my points I shall be making frequent use of the 57-million-word CobuildDirect Corpus, a corpus containing British (chiefly), American and Australian contemporary material from a variety of mainly written sources. (For a description of the corpus, see Sinclair (1987) and, for example, the Website

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