I love the subjunctive


Let there be no doubt, I love the subjunctive mood. It is oh, so very fine. Just think of it, a whole mood for expressing things imagined, desired, wished for, aspired to, and on occasion thoroughly contrary to fact.

  • If the sun were shining, I could plant a garden.
  • If I weren’t all hayfevery, I’d feel like running up a hill.
  • If the president weren’t a goofus, he’d be leading the world versus kicking it in Africa

Betimes I wonder, do I, like the overly flowery narrator in Camus’ «La Chute» over-use the subjunctive; perhaps to the point of misuse?

I checked out the cute Mignon Fogarty ( lulz for my Francophonic friends ), AKA Grammar Girl’s thoughts on the matter which ultimately pointed me to Bartleby.

Something that came out in Mignon’s podcast and in Bartleby is that when the supposition, that imagined or wished for simply could never happen, the subjunctive is appropriate. If it might happen one ought prefer the indicative mood.

This question is humorously explored by Loudon Wainwright II in his humorous acronomic folk-song “IWIWAL”. Decompression of acronym and further thought after the jump.

The song is properly entitled “I wish I was a lesbian”.

Now this line is uttered to Loudon the interlocutor by a lady.

She says “I wish I was a lesbian”. Loudon in the song opines: “Didn’t you mean, you wish you were a lesbian?”

But, according to Bartleby and other sources, the speaker was right. Being a female it is certainly within the realm of possibility that she might, actually explore the charms of Sapphic love.