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How is this sentence correct?

It's important for me that he come.

The sentence was said by an english-native-speaker, so I assume it's correct, but I thought it was he/she/it comes. How's that?

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    I'm sorry, where did you read this? What is the context? Aug 2, 2021 at 20:57
  • I read it on a forum, there was no more context. Is this called the subjunctive? Aug 2, 2021 at 21:03
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    @downvoter instead of giving the question a downvote, say what's is wrong so I can correct it... Aug 2, 2021 at 21:17
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    English doesn't use «» for quotes so I've fixed them to use the English punctuation.
    – James K
    Aug 2, 2021 at 21:47
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    @Ricardo It's a fair question. I have upvoted it. Aug 2, 2021 at 23:32

2 Answers 2

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This is the subjunctive.

Note that the speaker does not say that the person did come, nor do they indicate that they will come. They are expressing a hope, and for this it is possible to use the subjunctive mood, which is "he come".

However modern English has dropped the subjunctive in most contexts, and so "It is important that he comes." is also correct and has exactly the same meaning. Note there should be full stop, not a question mark, as this sentence isn't a question.

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  • Modern English has dropped the subjunctive in far more British contexts than American. I can't comment on other parts of the English speaking world, but English media are rife with sentences that use the indicative where the subjunctive is required (to my [American] ear). I don't encounter this nearly so much in American media.
    – phoog
    Aug 3, 2021 at 1:35
  • This page has details about the subjunctive. The base subjunctive occurs in combination with specific verbs and adjectives, including "important": englishclub.com/grammar/subjunctive.htm
    – nschneid
    Aug 3, 2021 at 1:38
  • Furthermore, there is a difference. For example, in describing a plot, one might say "it is important that he is prompt" if the promptness drives the story in some way, whereas "it is important that he be prompt" means that the possible failure to be prompt has some important negative consequence. When a politician says "it's important that we are transparent," it sounds to me like a claim of transparency rather than an undertaking to be transparent.
    – phoog
    Aug 3, 2021 at 1:47
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I would disagree with the other answer.

It is important that he comes is not acceptable in American English, or at least it has a different meaning.

Consider these alternatives:

  1. It is important that he come.
  2. It is important that he comes.
  3. It is important that he should come.

In American English, (1) and (3) mean "It is an important requirement that he should come." Sentence (2) means "It is a fact that he comes. This is important."

In British English, (2) can be used with the meaning of (1) and is in fact far more common.

Sentence (3) is acceptable in both British and American English and always has the meaning of (1). This is a good option if you are writing for an international audience.

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