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On a site about movies, I read the following:

While Nader defaults to self-righteousness after his wife demands that he abandon his Alzheimer’s-ridden father, Maadi shades the character’s stubbornness with layers of pained love that he’s never been taught how to express.

My question is about the first part of the sentence. why does it read "... he abandon.." instead of "he abandons"?

And I'm not sure about the meaning of "defaults to self-righteousness".

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    It's the subjunctive. See this question. Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 10:09
  • I particularly recommend the answer by Araucaria to the question linked above – the top-voted answer can be ignored as it's inaccurate. (Note to mods: please don't edit out my caveat again.)
    – user3395
    Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 14:58

2 Answers 2

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This is a subjunctive phrase, and more specifically, a mandative subjunctive one.

Subjunctive phrases are mostly used when talking about hypothetical situations or wishes, as follows:

If I were a boy, I think I could understand.
I wish that what he said were true...
The report recommends that he face the tribunal.

When using subjunctive, bare infinitive is used (apart from were), like your example. Be aware, though, of mandative and non-mandative subjunctive (as pointed out by Peter Shor).

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  • What you have described above is true of written English and American English. In informal British English, on the other hand, "abandons" is possible.
    – Apollyon
    Commented Jul 31, 2019 at 5:20
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In Standard American English, a bare infinitive, i.e., one without the infinitive marker "to," is used in the objective clause after verbs such as "demand, "require," etc. So "abandon" is correct.

In formal British English, you would see "should abandon." In informal British English, you would see the indicative form of the verb used. Therefore, "abandons" is also correct.

The following is taken from The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English:

• In everyday English, you demand that someone does something:

I demand that he apologizes.

• In formal English, you demand that someone do something, using the base form of the verb (=the infinitive without ‘to’):

His opponents are demanding that he resign.

**✗**Don’t say: demand someone to do something

• You use the base form of the verb when talking about the past:

They demanded that he resign.

• In everyday English, people also say:

They demanded that he resigned.

• You demand that someone should do something:

His opponents demanded that he should resign.

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