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.
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Otherwise, subjunctive verb forms are indistinguishable from indicative ones. Melissa Mohr, The Christian Science Monitor, 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, 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, 2 Apr. 2018 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The body cannot live in the subjunctive, unfortunately. New York Times, 11 Jan. 2022 These new thoughts flooded in, leaving little room for concerns about Othello’s motivation or the subjunctive in French. New York Times, 13 May 2021 But the phrase is often used with the subjunctive, that word or phrase that indicates doubt: one mistake should not define me. Washington Post, 13 Jan. 2021 Fewer and fewer speakers are as meticulous about the subjunctive as Beyoncé. Melissa Mohr, The Christian Science Monitor, 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, 3 July 2019 Batuman writes; Nina’s reality remains untroubled by conditionals and subjunctives. Katy Waldman, Slate Magazine, 20 Mar. 2017 To avoid the complicated subjunctive, which expresses wishes and hopes. Diana Spechler, Longreads, 28 Oct. 2017 See More

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.

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near subjunctive

subjunction

subjunctive

subjunctive equivalent

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for subjunctive

Cite this Entry

“Subjunctive.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/subjunctive. Accessed 29 Jun. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More from Merriam-Webster on subjunctive

Nglish: Translation of subjunctive for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of subjunctive for Arabic Speakers

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Name That Food

  • a-light
  • Name these cookies!
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

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!