English Language Learners Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for speakers of other languages learning English. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Consider:

It is requested that a vote be taken.

It is high time you went to bed.

These two sentences express the subjunctive mood. Why do they differ in their form? The first has the infinitive and second one the preterite. Is there some logic behind this different formation of the subjunctive?

share|improve this question
    
Unless you've got a lot of time on your hands, it's not really worth giving much thought to the "subjunctive" in English. It might be important in other languages, but the main reason it crops up at all in English is simply that historically it was important to Latin. It's not very significant in English, As a "mood" it doesn't mean much, and syntactically we use it less and less. – FumbleFingers Feb 6 at 16:12
    
The second construction has been discussed several times here. This is just one place – GoDucks Feb 6 at 16:13
    
    
In sentence 1 there is no infinitive, but a present subjunctive in passive form. – rogermue Feb 6 at 16:39
1  
@Ustanak: I'm talking about native speakers in general, not particularly BrE. Technically, I suppose it's true that It's time I left is "subjunctive", but although that's a perfectly natural usage, I doubt the average Anglophone would call it that (they'd probably just say it's a "past tense" form). Many of the more "unusual" subjunctive usages, such as If that's what you want, then so be it are effectively "frozen" forms and/or considered dated/archaic. And many forms which strictly speaking are subjunctive mood simply aren't recognized as such by native speakers today. – FumbleFingers Feb 6 at 17:40
up vote 3 down vote accepted

I'm going to make it short. Please forgive my conciseness.

It is requested that a vote be taken.
(= That should happen when it's needed to happen in the future, probably soon.)

It is high time you went to bed.
(= That should've already happened. That is, you should've already been in bed!)

In short, it's some point in time after now vs. now.

share|improve this answer
    
Short but good. Nice way to explain it. – Ustanak Feb 6 at 15:41
    
Thank you for a reply. Yet I ever thought that the phrase "It is high time you went to bed" has the meaning of inducement and thus is related to the future. So the concerned person is not yet in bed. – bart-leby Feb 6 at 15:45
    
The meaning of inducement as you said is an implication. Its literal meaning suggests something that should've happened, but didn't or haven't happened yet. It's a common way to be indirect in English, in my humble opinion. – Damkerng T. Feb 6 at 15:55
1  
@DamkerngT. Your understanding of "it's time you went* to bed" is not correct. The past subjunctive went* expresses a wish/demand, what someone should do now. dictionary.cambridge.org/de/grammatik/britisch-grammatik/… A pity that the Cambridge article does not say that "we went" is past subjunctive referring not to past, but to now. – rogermue Feb 6 at 18:03
    
@roguemue I thought I said "now". I said now, didn't I? – Damkerng T. Feb 6 at 20:18

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.