I suggest the new leadership be needed.

I learned subjunctive mood recently and now I know you could parse this as such, "I suggest the new leadership should be needed." However, now I got confused all the more for the present tense like this one below.

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I suggest the new leadership is needed.

It's like, to me, the whole sentence should have subjunctive mood according to the situation in which the speaker is. But still, it's just in the normal and present tense... how? What could be the differences between the sentences each above?

  • 1
    "I suggest new leadership is needed" is not subjunctive. It's a passive form. And both should be needed and be needed are a mistake here. Also, I would suggest removing the "the". "Subjunctive" would be: I suggest he leave now. This is only relevant in the third person singular, present tense.
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 3, 2018 at 19:06
  • 1
    You clearly haven't noticed that the original form doesn't have a definite article (you've erroneously transcribed it as the new leadership). If you're still at the stage of not noticing significant details like that (and presumably not being aware of the difference it makes), you definitely shouldn't be wasting time trying to understand subjunctive usages. Commented Dec 3, 2018 at 19:13
  • @FumbleFingers apparently some people feel differently, as the Wikipedia article gives "She suggests that he speak English" as an example of the subjunctive, although it's not clear why.
    – Andrew
    Commented Dec 3, 2018 at 20:08
  • @Andrew: That's got nothing to do with my point, which is that the significantly affects the meaning. So OP's example could only be "grammatically" understood as referring to a specific new leadership (already contextually identified). In which case it would be syntactically identical if we changed the new leadership to any other "specific" identifier, such as a proper noun. But "subjunctive" I think John be needed is clearly ungrammatical/nonsensical with or without should, outside of non-standard dialectal contexts. And it's no different with OP's example. Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 14:21
  • @FumbleFingers Er ... my mistake? I addressed the comment to the wrong person. It should have been directed at Lambie's comment.
    – Andrew
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 16:50

3 Answers 3


The so-called subjunctive (which is identical to the base form for every verb in the language, so I don't understand why some grammarians insist on giving it a different name) is used by some people after verbs like insist, decide, suggest, command, but not by everybody.

It is used more in formal contexts (like committee meetings), and I think more by American than British speakers.

As you say, forms with "should" are a common alternative. But the simple present is also used, especially in British English.


The verb to suggest can take a subjunctive object, but it also can take an indicative object.  The difference can be meaningful. 

I suggest that something is true. 
I suggest that something be done. 

In the indicative case, we are quite naturally describing things as they are. Here, the something is true -- whether I make the suggestion or not.  No one needs to follow my suggestion in order to make that thing be true.  In the subjunctive case, we are describing things as they are not.  The something isn't done -- not yet, not until someone follows the suggestion.  At the very least, I don't assume that this something is already done when I make such a suggestion, even if I happen to be mistaken. 

? I suggest that new leadership be needed. 

This just seems strange.  Am I suggesting that someone should create the need, or that we can't know whether new leadership is needed? 

The subjunctive doesn't make sense here.  She's not presenting a hypothetical or contra-factual idea in this clause.  Assuming that the if-clause is true (and, in this context, we should), she's describing her world as it is. 


I can't say whether or not this sentence would actually be subjunctive, as there seem to be different opinions. However I can say that using "should" in combination with requests, opinions, or commands, reduces its intensity. This can be deliberate way to make the request more formal and polite, but possibly also a bit old-fashioned:

I ask that you (should) call me by my first name.

I'm not British, so I defer to Colin Fine's nationality, but to me this sounds more like something a posh British person would say, but few Americans. Over here in the U.S. it would be far more common to say:

Please call me by my first name.

In a different context (such as a committee meeting) "should" is a relatively benign added layer of politeness. It's not necessary, but it might sound nice and avoid "ruffling feathers". Example:

I motion that we (should) vote on this immediately.

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