Subjunctive - Is it ok to say, "If I were you?"
The subjunctive is a relatively rare verb form. It is more common in US English than in UK English, where should + infinitive is often used
How to use the Subjunctive:
We use subjunctives when talking about events that are not certain to happen, e.g. we use the subjunctive when talking about events that someone:
- wants to happen
- hopes will happen
- imagines happening
Look at these examples:
- The principal requests that you be present at the meeting.
- It is vital that you be present at the meeting.
- If you were at the meeting, the principal would be happy.
The subjunctive is typically used after two structures:
- the verbs: ask, command, demand, insist, propose, recommend, request, suggest + that
- the expressions: it is desirable, essential, important, necessary, vital + that
Notice that in these structures the subjunctive is always the same. It does not matter whether the sentence is past or present. Look at these examples:
- Present: The President requests that they stop the occupation.
- Past: The President requested that they stop the occupation.
- Present: It is essential that she be present.
- Past: It was essential that she be present.
We usually use the subjunctive were instead of "was" after if (and other words with similar meaning). Look at these sentences:
- If I were you, I would ask her.
- Suppose she were here. What would you say?
- It is essential that she at the meeting.
- If I you I would call her tonight.
- It is necessary that every student a uniform.
- I hope that he his homework on time.
- The doctors recommended that she a vacation.
- The boss asks that you early for your first day of work.
- If you feeling better we would go.
- It is important that we home as soon as we arrive.
- The landlord requested that John out of the apartment.
- We want the windows washed before Friday.