subjunctive

adjective
sub·​junc·​tive | \ səb-ˈjən(k)-tiv How to pronounce subjunctive (audio) \

Definition of subjunctive

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: of, relating to, or constituting a verb form or set of verb forms that represents a denoted act or state not as fact but as contingent or possible or viewed emotionally (as with doubt or desire) the subjunctive mood

subjunctive

noun

Definition of subjunctive (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the subjunctive mood of a language
2 : a form of verb or verbal in the subjunctive mood

Examples of subjunctive in a Sentence

Adjective In “I wish it were Friday,” the verb “were” is in the subjunctive mood. Noun “I wish it were not so” is in the subjunctive. Subjunctives can be used to express doubt.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Otherwise, subjunctive verb forms are indistinguishable from indicative ones. Melissa Mohr, The Christian Science Monitor, "Slipping into a subjunctive mood," 1 Oct. 2020 This gave Ryan Coogler free rein to create a country in the subjunctive mode: what if…? The New York Review of Books, "Namwali Serpell," 2 Mar. 2019 The author has to sneak away from his seat to consult Reagan letters, diaries and biographies to fortify what is essentially a subjunctive enterprise. Thomas Mallon, New York Times, "Watch One With the Gipper: An Aide Recalls Movie Nights With the Reagans," 2 Apr. 2018 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun But the phrase is often used with the subjunctive, that word or phrase that indicates doubt: one mistake should not define me. Washington Post, "Miya Ponsetto’s apology interview for attacking teen over a lost phone reveals a pattern of behavior," 13 Jan. 2021 Fewer and fewer speakers are as meticulous about the subjunctive as Beyoncé. Melissa Mohr, The Christian Science Monitor, "Slipping into a subjunctive mood," 1 Oct. 2020 The dreaded subjunctive indicates that something is not being asserted as true and this turns out to be difficult to learn when that is not an important distinction in your own language. Michelle Sheehan, Quartz, "Five reasons English speakers struggle to learn other languages," 3 July 2019 Batuman writes; Nina’s reality remains untroubled by conditionals and subjunctives. Katy Waldman, Slate Magazine, "Elif Batuman sets out to write a novel as chaotic, random, and intoxicating as real life.," 20 Mar. 2017 To avoid the complicated subjunctive, which expresses wishes and hopes. Diana Spechler, Longreads, "Language Acquisition," 28 Oct. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'subjunctive.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of subjunctive

Adjective

circa 1504, in the meaning defined above

Noun

1575, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for subjunctive

Adjective

Late Latin subjunctivus, from Latin subjunctus, past participle of subjungere to join beneath, subordinate

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about subjunctive

Time Traveler for subjunctive

Time Traveler

The first known use of subjunctive was circa 1504

See more words from the same year

Statistics for subjunctive

Cite this Entry

“Subjunctive.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/subjunctive. Accessed 24 Feb. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLA Chicago APA Merriam-Webster

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for subjunctive

subjunctive

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of subjunctive

 (Entry 1 of 2)

grammar : of or relating to the verb form that is used to express suggestions, wishes, uncertainty, possibility, etc.

subjunctive

noun

English Language Learners Definition of subjunctive (Entry 2 of 2)

grammar
: the form that a verb or sentence has when it is expressing a suggestion, wish, uncertainty, possibility, etc.
: a subjunctive verb or sentence

More from Merriam-Webster on subjunctive

Nglish: Translation of subjunctive for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of subjunctive for Arabic Speakers

Comments on subjunctive

What made you want to look up subjunctive? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!