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This is from a Washington Post article.

Patrick Boehler, head of digital strategy at Radio Free Europe, said CrowdTangle data showed that independent news stories in the Russian language worldwide were getting shared many more times on social media than stories from state-run media. He said that once the Kremlin lost control of the narrative, it would have been hard to regain.

Is the subjunctive mood used in the sentence in bold?

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    There's two big problems with that sentence: 1. it's contradictory to the rest of the paragraph because it has unreal grammar, indicating that the Kremlin has not lost control of the narrative, but the rest of the paragraph indicates that the Kremlin has lost control; and 2. it's unclear what time it's referring to because the first clause, "once the Kremlin lost..." is in unreal present, while the second clause, "it would have been..." is in unreal past.
    – gotube
    Mar 5, 2022 at 14:15
  • @gotube Thank you very much. How about 'once the Kremlin had lost control of the narrative, ...'?
    – user151836
    Mar 5, 2022 at 14:22
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    That's fine, as long as you end the sentence with, "... it will be hard to regain."
    – gotube
    Mar 6, 2022 at 23:58
  • @gotube Thank you very much.
    – user151836
    Mar 7, 2022 at 1:38

1 Answer 1

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No. The inner subordinate clause ("once the Kremlin lost control of the narrative") is in the simple past tense to indicate an earlier time. (Try replacing "once" with "when" or "after".)

The outer subordinate clause ("that . . . it would have been hard to regain") uses a modal auxiliary verb in preterite form ("would") with a marker of the perfect aspect ("have" + past participle). There is nothing necessarily subjunctive about that construction:

I could have gone to the store.
You should have been nicer.
They might have been lost.
Etc.

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  • Thank you very much.
    – user151836
    Mar 5, 2022 at 22:46

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