Declines Vs Declineth

Somewhere I read that "decline" is just third person , but "declineth" is indicative .

Could you help me explain the difference of indicative with some examples so that I elicit the point.

  • 5
    That's incorrect. There is no contrast between third person and indicative. You're asking about inflectional affixes from Early Modern English and earlier forms of the language; declineth doesn't exist in Modern English. – snailplane Dec 12 '14 at 0:39

Declines and declineth are both third-person singular indicative.

Declineth is archaic, or Early Modern English. Declineth is found in the King James bible: "My days are like a shadow that declineth, and I am withered like grass." (Psalm 102) That's in the indicative mood: just describing something, not treating it as a hypothesis or alternate reality.

In the 1500s, people said both declines and declineth to mean the same thing. There was no grammatical distinction, but declines was felt to be informal and declineth appropriate for ordinary or formal speech, and for poetry. [source]

The subjunctive mood, in all persons and numbers, both modern and archaic, is decline. The subjunctive mood means that the verb describes a hypothetical, desired, or proposed reality, distinguished from what really is or was. For example, "Jones requires that Smith decline all further offers." When people use the verb require, they often put the subordinate clause's verb in the subjunctive mood. In Early Modern English, the same sentence might be: "Jones requireth that Smith declyne all forther offers." (Spelling wasn't very standardized back then. It could just as easily have been "decline all further offers".) [source]

Usually when a verb is put into the subjunctive mood, it's in a subordinate clause, as in the requires examples. But not always. A well-known sentence with the main verb in the subjunctive mood is "God bless you". Here, the subjunctive mood expresses a wish. In the indicative mood, it would be "God blesses you", making a claim about what is happening now.

It's hard to find the subjunctive mood in modern English because in all conjugations of a verb except the third-person singular, the indicative and subjunctive moods have exactly the same form. To illustrate, the first sentence in each of the following pairs has sleep in the indicative mood; the second sentence has sleep in the subjunctive mood:

I sleep at night. / The doctor recommends that I sleep. [first-person singular]

We sleep at night. / The doctor recommends that we sleep. [first-person plural]

You sleep at night. / The doctor recommends that you sleep. [second person]

He sleeps at night. / The doctor recommends that he sleep. [third person singular]

They sleep at night. / The doctor recommends that they sleep. [third-person plural]

As you can see, in the present tense, the subjunctive always has the same form as the infinitive.

There is only one verb that has a distinct form for the subjunctive mood in the past tense, and that's be. The subjunctive past tense of be is were in all persons and numbers. It usually shows up following if: "If I were you…", "If we were young again…", "If you were rich…", "If he were smarter…", "If they were home now…" As you can see, the subjunctive past tense doesn't necessarily refer to the past!

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.