On this page https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/grammar/when-to-use-the-subjunctive, there is an example of subjunctive sentence: The report recommends that he face the tribunal..

If face will be changed to faces, will it be wrong? In case it's not wrong, then it's not a subjunctive anymore but still grammatically correct?


  • 1
    No, not at all wrong, though I believe it would be less acceptable in AmE. It is sometimes called the 'covert mandative' – same meaning but less formal.
    – BillJ
    Aug 6, 2017 at 18:09

3 Answers 3


If you change "face" to "faces", then you are using the indicative mood, but modern English tends to use the indicative where in the past the subjunctive would have been used.

Use of the subjunctive gives an elevated and formal style to writing. Using the indicative gives a plain and straightforward style. It is often possible to use modal verbs instead of the subjunctive, and these can give a variety of shades of meaning. In a document giving recommendations on UK local government, the indicative was used 5 times out of 7, and a modal (should) was used once (one instance used a plural subject, so the subjunctive and indicative were identical in form).

So the following are all correct, with the same meaning:

The report recommends that he face the tribunal [Subjunctive]

The report recommends that he faces the tribunal [Indicative]

The report recommends that he should face the tribunal [modal]


Yes, it would be wrong to say:

The commission recommends that he faces the tribunal.

To avoid the subjunctive ("that he face the tribunal"), you could use a modal instead:

The commission recommends that he should face the tribunal.

P.S. Since the situation is different in Britain, be sure to read the comments below.

  • It is not "wrong" in BrE, where finite verbs (as opposed to 'subjunctives' and periphrastics) became more and more common from the beginning to the middle of the 20th century--I see finites very often in The Guardian. However, corpus studies (e.g.Leech et al, Change in Contemporary English) seem to show that the mandative subjunctive is enjoying a revival in academic and bureaucratic contexts. Aug 6, 2017 at 16:37
  • Even with recommends the Brits would use third-person indic. ("faces") in the complement?
    – TimR
    Aug 6, 2017 at 16:39
  • Yes. Using indicative "faces" is normal in modern British English in this sense. It is also correct to use subjunctive "face". The subjunctive is (as noted) common enough in formal contexts, but the indicative is quite acceptable. The suggestion to use a modal is a good one, as it allows for shades of meaning (may face/should face/must face) that can't be achieved by the subjunctive.
    – James K
    Aug 6, 2017 at 16:52
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo Here's a pretty bureaucratic piece, with 7 instances of recommend that: 1 should, 1 subjunctive, and 5 finite. Aug 6, 2017 at 16:55
  • @StoneyB You read the Guardian? Shame on you!
    – BillJ
    Aug 6, 2017 at 18:19

It's wrong to use "he faces" after the verb "recommend" in any form of English, but just because it's wrong doesn't mean native speakers, especially the British, don't say it the way you have it written. In American English, "he faces" therein would be abominable to say or write. It should be written, "The report recommends that he face the tribunal." This must be in the subjunctive mood herein. If you were to put it into the indicative mood (i.e. he faces), it would be grammatically incorrect and would sound terrible to an American English speaker. I would say something if I heard you say that and I don't correct people all that often, but the error would be so abominable that I wouldn't let you leave without explaining to you that that is bad grammar.

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