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Why is there a proposition and why is it "in" in THIS sentence? Why is "be" used other than "should be"? What's the structure of the that-clause?

"Moulton’s letter cited the concerns of others in asking that the centers be shut down."

I met the sentence when reading "Moulton wants local colleges to cut ties with Chinese institute"(https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/03/09/moulton-wants-local-colleges-cut-ties-with-chinese-institute/2l5Y9Oa1WgG3SuapqGCaNP/story.html?event=event25?event=event25)

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  • What research have you done on those items? – BillJ Mar 10 '18 at 10:45
  • What I don't understand is this sentence: "Moulton’s letter cited the concerns of others in asking that the centers be shut down." – Zhang Jian Mar 11 '18 at 3:03
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  • The pattern "[clause] in [gerund phrase]" means that the subject does [clause] within the larger context of the subject doing [gerund phrase]. In this case, the meaning is:

Moulton's letter cited the concerns of others, and with this justification, the letter asked that the centers be shut down.

  • "ask that [subjunctive clause]" is a pattern to describe a request for someone to do something or make something happen. Compared with other uses of ask, this pattern is less common and tends to carry a legalese tone. It's appropriate here because Moulton's letter seems to have a legal implication.

  • be is used this way in a subjunctive clause.

The sentence could be rephrased with the more common pattern "ask for [subject] to [infinitival clause]" as:

Moulton's letter cited the concerns of others in asking for the centers to be shut down.

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