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



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.
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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.

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First Known Use of subjunctive


circa 1504, in the meaning defined above


1575, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for subjunctive


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

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The first known use of subjunctive was circa 1504

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Cite this Entry

“Subjunctive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Feb. 2021.

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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.



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

: 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

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