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Grammar Focus

50 essential grammar rules

By Helen Mathur

Buyer: Leigh Barrington ([email protected])
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© Helen Mathur 2010.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or
transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the author,
except in the case of brief quotations employed in critical articles or reviews.

The author has made every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information herein. However,
the information contained in this book is sold without warranty, either express or implied.
Neither the author, nor its dealers or distributors, will be held liable for any damages caused
either directly or indirectly by the instructions contained in this book.

Test names and other trademarks are the property of the respective trademark holders. None
of the trademark holders are affiliated with, or endorse, this product.

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Verb tense, voice and mood

The subjunctive in impossible / very unlikely situations

If Mahatma Gandhi was alive today, he would deplore the rise of

If Mahatma Gandhi were alive today, he would deplore the rise of


Use were rather than was for something impossible, counter to fact, or highly unlikely. In this

case it is impossible for Gandhi to be alive today, and so use were.

For the other main use of the subjunctive, see rule C09.

More Examples

 If it was / were a simple matter of refunding the amount, we would be glad to agree to
your request.

(Use were since it is clearly not a simple matter.)

 I wish that I was / were with you at this difficult time.

(Use were since the sentence implies that it is impossible to be there.)

 If I was / were you, I would revise this rule.

(I cannot be you, and so use were.)



Note: The subjunctive is rare in spoken English but common on grammar tests!

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Verb tense, voice and mood

The subjunctive in indirect commands

It is of utmost importance that the judge should examine the

It is of utmost importance that the judge examine the


Strong statements such as, it is required that, it is of great importance that, the law requires

that, the government insists that, the expert recommends that, are followed by a subjunctive

(examine, be done, write etc).

These ‘strong statements’ are usually indirect commands. Note that the main verb is followed

by the word that.

We do not use the forms should write, should examine or writes, examines etc. in indirect


This subjunctive is most often associated with legal and governmental matters.

Consider another example: The law requires that seat belts be worn.

More Examples

 The coach ordered that the injured player rest / rested / should rest.

(Use the subjunctive: rest)

 It is required that forms be / are / should be prepared and circulated before the meeting.

(Use the subjunctive: be)

 It is possible that he will make / make / might make a mistake.

(This is not a subjunctive, as no command is implied. Not all verbs followed by ‘that’

require a subjunctive. In this case use will make.)



Note: The subjunctive mood is formed by dropping ‘to’ from the infinitive.

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Adverse Adverse weather conditions prevented the landing.

Averse I am not averse to going, but I might not have the time.

Credible The suggestion, though credible, was not readily accepted.

Credulous A credulous fool will fall prey to confidence tricks.

Discrete The data fell into two discrete categories.

Discreet The diplomat handled the sensitive data discreetly.

Economic The project was rejected on economic grounds.

Economical Be economical and travel by the cheaper route.

Elicit The lawyer tried to elicit information from the witness.

Illicit Illicit production of alcohol is a problem for the police.

Eminent An eminent professor will give the guest lecture.

Imminent His arrival is imminent so take your seats.

Stationary Stationary vehicles blocked the access to the driveway.

Stationery I ordered paper and envelopes from the stationery department.

Exceptional The actor’s exceptional performance won him accolades.

Exceptionable Such exceptionable behavior will never be accepted.

Loose I need loose clothing in hot weather.

Lose I need to lose a few pounds in order to wear those trousers.

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