I understand that the sentence

I asked him to be careful.

is indirect speech and

I asked that he be careful.

is subjunctive. What I don't understand is if there is any differences between them in meaning. When I say either of these sentences what comes to a native speaker's mind.

Are there any differences in meaning? Can I use each interchangeably? When does a native speaker tend to use either of these sentences?

  • In "I asked that he be careful." it is unclear who was asked. – user3169 Feb 13 '17 at 19:23
  • I edited your question according to what I think you intended. "that" in the second example is not optional. You can undo edits if I am wrong. – user3169 Feb 13 '17 at 19:27
  • The subjunctive is used to emphasize urgency or importance: I asked that he be careful. – Victor B. Feb 13 '17 at 19:40
  • @user3169 thanks for the edition. I thought it's optional. I wasn't really sure I just figured because that is not the subject of the next clause it might be optional. – Yuri Feb 13 '17 at 20:07
  • I upvoted both answers because I think both contributed to my understanding of the issue. – Yuri Feb 14 '17 at 17:22

Your two sentences can have slightly different meanings

I asked him to be careful.
I asked him to be careful on the drive home because it was snowing.

can have the meaning that "he" be careful for himself "that he take care of himself"

I asked that he be careful.
I asked that he be careful moving the furniture around the house

might usually be said with regard to "him" taking care when doing something with more regard to the environment round "him".

  • Is it OK if I interpret I asked that he be careful as a form of indirect speech in which the importance or urgency of the statement is emphasized? In other words, I was emotionally more concerned. Does it give you as a native speaker such an implication? – Yuri Feb 13 '17 at 20:20

I asked him to be careful.

This implies that you asked the person directly to be careful.

I asked that he be careful.

This implies that you asked indirectly, through a supervisor for example, that the person be careful. But this is ambiguous so the speaker can mean he spoke to the person directly.

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