The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

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The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Izzhov » Tue Feb 05, 2008 4:07 am UTC

It's true! I heard it on the news! (For all of you who are unaware of what the subjunctive mood is, look it up on Wikipedia. :P )
Yeah, so I'm learning about the subjunctive mood in Latin, and it makes a lot of sense. But apparently the only place the subjunctive appears in English is with the verb "were," as in, "I wish I were..." or "If she were...", etcetera, and even now people are starting to use "I wish I was...", which greatly vexes me, to say the least. It's so useful, I'm sad that it's dying (although I've heard some languages, such as Spanish, completely overdo it when it comes to the subjunctive).

Discuss.

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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Zak » Tue Feb 05, 2008 4:10 am UTC

Thanks to spanish, i will cheer the death of the subjunctive.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Interactive Civilian » Tue Feb 05, 2008 4:31 am UTC

Izzhov wrote:even now people are starting to use "I wish I was...", which greatly vexes me, to say the least.

I cringe every time I hear this, and a little piece of me dies inside every time one of my ESL students says it, since I have explained and drilled and reinforced using "were" all the time when dealing with present and past conditionals (i.e. type II and type III or whatever they are called now...I don't pay much attention to grammar terminology as I am only focused on teaching how to use it, not what it is called). :(
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Feb 05, 2008 4:53 am UTC

The English subjunctive also shows itself when you use the base form instead of the third-person singular (indicative) form for certain phrases: "I suggest he leave."

Personally, I don't much care. For my part I try to use the subjunctive forms in my own speech, but I don't think any particular meaning is being lost in most cases when people use the indicative forms instead. There are already other key words there that tell you when something is unreal or hypothetical or whatever.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby zomgmouse » Tue Feb 05, 2008 9:26 am UTC

The subjunctive is definitely much more present (pardon the pun) in other languages (for exampe French).

In English, this is relegated to VERY rare usage (e.g. "I wish that the meeting be held somewhere else") as an actual subjunctive.

However, in many cases, it is not apparent that one be using (HA! This should be right, but probably isn't) the subjunctive. "If I were you...", "...as it were", "...whatever be the reason".

It is much more widely used in French, and even sounds nicer than the indicative, whereas in English, the subjunctive is stagnant, and sounds too bizarre to be considered correct, even though it is.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby tendays » Tue Feb 05, 2008 11:36 am UTC

Izzhov wrote:The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!


Why is that a bad thing? I think that a simpler language removes barriers between people (as long as it doesn't become so simple it gets ambiguous). I can see that mostly useless tenses disappearing in French - Past and pluperfect subjunctive are mostly gone (being replaced by present subjunctive) and simple past is only used in writing, and usually only for the third person, being replaced elsewhere by present perfect (passé composé). I think that's a good thing (and wish Portuguese would do the same - those people even have future subjunctive and conjugated infinitives and other nonsense).

The one problem I see with that is that future generations will have trouble reading old books but that's worth it I think. At worst, they can be translated into whatever the modern language will look like by then.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Masuri » Tue Feb 05, 2008 12:10 pm UTC

English is kind of like an aquarium. Sometimes the old fish die, and you end up getting new ones. (Sometimes, you look into the aquarium and think, "How the hell did that get in there?")

A living language is always changing and evolving, and when a piece of it like this goes the way of the dodo, there's no cause for alarm. I really think the subjunctive mood confuses many people and thus doesn't necessarily add any value. If I were inclined to mourn the little bits of English as they passed, this would be one funeral I would not attend.

(Now, if we could only get rid of 'lay' and 'lie'...)

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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Fargren » Tue Feb 05, 2008 6:06 pm UTC

Z.A.K wrote:Thanks to spanish, i will cheer the death of the subjunctive.

What?
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Feb 05, 2008 6:18 pm UTC

Fargren wrote:
Z.A.K wrote:Thanks to spanish, i will cheer the death of the subjunctive.

What?

What confuses you about that statement? Because of grief caused by the subjunctive mood in Spanish, zak wants it to disappear from English so he doesn't have to worry about any of those considerations when using his native language.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Dextrose » Tue Feb 05, 2008 7:33 pm UTC

I still contend that ideas like "I wish I was fishing" being somehow "wrong" are positively ludicrous, and I'm a little bit saddened by the fact that people are teaching ESL students not to say these things. What you're trying to do is keep English in its own grammatical past while the language continues inexorably to grow and evolve. English isn't how you read (call that 'red' and 'reed') it in books. It is how it's spoken, and "I wish I was fishing" accomplishes the same task in speaking as "I wish I were fishing;" the latter is merely more formal, indirect and wistful. Quit trying to dequip people of their language tools and start teaching them how they're properly (and I mean "in reality," not "in your ivory tower") used.

And Interactive Civilian - seriously. If they're using the subjunctive mood in the manner you apparently want them to, they'll be alienated even worse than ESL students already are. Stop fucking with your student's language.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Izzhov » Tue Feb 05, 2008 10:31 pm UTC

Dextrose wrote:I still contend that ideas like "I wish I was fishing" being somehow "wrong" are positively ludicrous, and I'm a little bit saddened by the fact that people are teaching ESL students not to say these things. What you're trying to do is keep English in its own grammatical past while the language continues inexorably to grow and evolve. English isn't how you read (call that 'red' and 'reed') it in books. It is how it's spoken, and "I wish I was fishing" accomplishes the same task in speaking as "I wish I were fishing;" the latter is merely more formal, indirect and wistful. Quit trying to dequip people of their language tools and start teaching them how they're properly (and I mean "in reality," not "in your ivory tower") used.

I wonder if a language can reach a point where nothing means anything any more...

Dextrose wrote:And Interactive Civilian - seriously. If they're using the subjunctive mood in the manner you apparently want them to, they'll be alienated even worse than ESL students already are. Stop fucking with your student's language.

He'll stop when the American populace does. :P

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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Dextrose » Tue Feb 05, 2008 11:10 pm UTC

Know what, man? Fuck you. English doesn't belong to you, it belongs to English speakers. Don't you dare try to lord yourself over me by calling what I speak somehow un-English. You speak it the way you want to, and I'll speak it the way I want to, but the mode in which it is spoken and the nature of speaking it is still not yours to decide nor any one person's. Language means more when people have more tools to shape it. You're the one yanking the meaning out of the language here by refusing to acknowledge the presence of a way of speaking that's just slightly to "common" for you. Well eat shit, homebro. Thanks to assholes like you trying to force people to speak a style of English that surpasses even Republican dress code in being consistently decades or even centuries behind the times, "the American populace" is now more unlikely to be well-spoken than they ever have, because they're constantly being told that what they're saying informally in informal settings isn't informal, it's wrong. You, sir. You did this. Not I. Nobody wants to learn English from a nitwit who can't relate to them - and I'm certainly tired of being taught English by people like you who just can't speak it. Incidentally, that's part of the reason I'm tutoring ESL students now, and showing them all the ways they can use this language, including the comfortable, realistic, modern dialect that actually serves a purpose to them. I'm going to do the best I can to make sure that people like you become completely obselete. You suck.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Zak » Wed Feb 06, 2008 12:20 am UTC

Dextrose wrote:Know what, man? Fuck you. English doesn't belong to you, it belongs to English speakers. Don't you dare try to lord yourself over me by calling what I speak somehow un-English. You speak it the way you want to, and I'll speak it the way I want to, but the mode in which it is spoken and the nature of speaking it is still not yours to decide nor any one person's. Language means more when people have more tools to shape it. You're the one yanking the meaning out of the language here by refusing to acknowledge the presence of a way of speaking that's just slightly to "common" for you. Well eat shit, homebro. Thanks to assholes like you trying to force people to speak a style of English that surpasses even Republican dress code in being consistently decades or even centuries behind the times, "the American populace" is now more unlikely to be well-spoken than they ever have, because they're constantly being told that what they're saying informally in informal settings isn't informal, it's wrong. You, sir. You did this. Not I. Nobody wants to learn English from a nitwit who can't relate to them - and I'm certainly tired of being taught English by people like you who just can't speak it. Incidentally, that's part of the reason I'm tutoring ESL students now, and showing them all the ways they can use this language, including the comfortable, realistic, modern dialect that actually serves a purpose to them. I'm going to do the best I can to make sure that people like you become completely obselete. You suck.

Was there an insult directed at you somewhere in this thread? You should try and state your points clearly without any insults if you actually want them to be taken seriously.

Also, yes, in spanish they tend to wield the subjunctive like a blunt hammer, left and right with wild abandon.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Fargren » Wed Feb 06, 2008 12:27 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Fargren wrote:
Z.A.K wrote:Thanks to spanish, i will cheer the death of the subjunctive.

What?

What confuses you about that statement? Because of grief caused by the subjunctive mood in Spanish, zak wants it to disappear from English so he doesn't have to worry about any of those considerations when using his native language.

Thanks :)
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby 4=5 » Wed Feb 06, 2008 1:08 am UTC

Masuri wrote:English is kind of like an aquarium. Sometimes the old fish die, and you end up getting new ones. (Sometimes, you look into the aquarium and think, "How the hell did that get in there?")

A living language is always changing and evolving, and when a piece of it like this goes the way of the dodo, there's no cause for alarm. I really think the subjunctive mood confuses many people and thus doesn't necessarily add any value. If I were inclined to mourn the little bits of English as they passed, this would be one funeral I would not attend.

(Now, if we could only get rid of 'lay' and 'lie'...)

good analogy

but to try to defuse the arguments in here. for me, there is no difference in mood comprehensibility and meaning. If some uses one instead of the other I honestly don't notice, I'm fine if it's kept I'm fine if it's gotten rid of, just none of you worry that horrible things will happen if it doesn't go the way you wanted.

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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Interactive Civilian » Wed Feb 06, 2008 1:48 am UTC

Dextrose wrote:I still contend that ideas like "I wish I was fishing" being somehow "wrong" are positively ludicrous, and I'm a little bit saddened by the fact that people are teaching ESL students not to say these things. What you're trying to do is keep English in its own grammatical past while the language continues inexorably to grow and evolve. English isn't how you read (call that 'red' and 'reed') it in books. It is how it's spoken, and "I wish I was fishing" accomplishes the same task in speaking as "I wish I were fishing;" the latter is merely more formal, indirect and wistful. Quit trying to dequip people of their language tools and start teaching them how they're properly (and I mean "in reality," not "in your ivory tower") used.

And Interactive Civilian - seriously. If they're using the subjunctive mood in the manner you apparently want them to, they'll be alienated even worse than ESL students already are. Stop fucking with your student's language.


Let me guess. Your English teachers used to mark you wrong with this, and you got a C instead of a B in one of your high school English classes because of this, hurting your GPA and causing you to miss your chance at a University scholarship, so you are still bitter.

Seriously, who pissed in your cheerios? You have NO idea how I teach my classes. You have no idea if I teach students colloquialisms (I do, and in more variants of English than American English...hint: the US isn't the only English speaking country in the world), commonly used incorrect forms (I do. I encourage them to avoid these forms but understand them when used), the ways that language is changing, etc. And, it's a pretty sad state of affairs if people are alienated for using the language correctly. Do you alienate people for saying "I am not" instead of "I ain't"? Grow up.

Yes, I have my own biases. For example, I teach my students to hate distrust the passive and to always be wary of using it, because the passive makes you sound weak and unsure of yourself. However, I do teach them how to use the passive, when it actually is better to use than the active, and why. [edit: wanted to clarify. I hate the passive. I want my students to not trust it. Students tend to hate it anyway, because it adds what is often unnecessary complexity to the language, with the exception of cases when it is better to use the passive]

Just because I teach the basic correct way of using English does not mean I don't teach them the incorrect ways that are commonly used, how to use them, and when to use them.

Based on your position of "if people use it, then it must be ok, because people understand", then the following must also be correct and be allowed to be used:
"I could care less..." when someone means "I couldn't care less..."
"Irregardless" when someone means "Regardless"
"For all intensive purposes" when someone means "For all intents and purposes"
"Begging the question..." when someone means "Giving rise to the question..." or "Leading to the question..." :P :twisted:
etc.

Maybe I should go ahead and teach the other conditionals incorrectly as well, since people often screw them up. Here are a few common errors I hear and see with native English speakers, usually other Americans:

"If I was taller in high school, I would have joined the basketball team."
"If he will do that, he would be fine."
"If you eat that, I would be angry."

Anytime I read or hear stuff like this, it throws my brain for a loop, kind of like switching to the wrong gear when driving. Same when someone says, "If I was..." but to a lesser degree. Yeah, I can understand the person's intent, but dammit, we have structure and grammar in our language for a reason. It makes the language flow smoothly and allows us to communicate exactly what we want to say, which is one of the reasons I like the English language a lot: you can be very specific and very clear in this language, unlike, say, Japanese. Of course, that all goes out the window when you break the rules because you can't be bothered to follow them.

I am not fucking with my students language. I'm teaching them how to speak without sounding like a fool who couldn't be bothered to pay attention in school.

ESPECIALLY in more formal situations (which is why these students are learning the language) like applying for schools and jobs, if you can't be bothered to communicate clearly, I can only wonder what else you are lazy about.

Anyway, I realize that American English is very flexible, much more so than British English, and I like that. It gives it a more relaxed, but kind of tough sound (Stephen King explains this very well in 'On Writing'). But, dammit, I'm going to teach my students how to use the language correctly before I teach them acceptable ways of using it incorrectly.

So, why don't you go get a new bowl of cheerios, and lighten up.
Last edited by Interactive Civilian on Wed Feb 06, 2008 2:24 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Izzhov » Wed Feb 06, 2008 2:20 am UTC

Dextrose wrote:Know what, man? Fuck you. English doesn't belong to you, it belongs to English speakers. Don't you dare try to lord yourself over me by calling what I speak somehow un-English. You speak it the way you want to, and I'll speak it the way I want to, but the mode in which it is spoken and the nature of speaking it is still not yours to decide nor any one person's. Language means more when people have more tools to shape it. You're the one yanking the meaning out of the language here by refusing to acknowledge the presence of a way of speaking that's just slightly to "common" for you. Well eat shit, homebro. Thanks to assholes like you trying to force people to speak a style of English that surpasses even Republican dress code in being consistently decades or even centuries behind the times, "the American populace" is now more unlikely to be well-spoken than they ever have, because they're constantly being told that what they're saying informally in informal settings isn't informal, it's wrong. You, sir. You did this. Not I. Nobody wants to learn English from a nitwit who can't relate to them - and I'm certainly tired of being taught English by people like you who just can't speak it. Incidentally, that's part of the reason I'm tutoring ESL students now, and showing them all the ways they can use this language, including the comfortable, realistic, modern dialect that actually serves a purpose to them. I'm going to do the best I can to make sure that people like you become completely obselete. You suck.

Reply:
Z.A.K wrote:Was there an insult directed at you somewhere in this thread? You should try and state your points clearly without any insults if you actually want them to be taken seriously.

So... I'll reply to you once you've calmed down. :P

Also, I agree with the Interactive Civilian. Yeah. I don't usually correct someone's grammar unless it's ambiguous. For example, I don't really care whether someone uses "who" or "whom" (unless it's a formal contract or something) because it doesn't really make a sentence ambiguous. But sometimes things like dangling modifiers and parallel structure can be legitimately confusing and misunderstood by the person being spoken to. (Yeah, I realize I just used the passive. :P )

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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Interactive Civilian » Wed Feb 06, 2008 2:49 am UTC

Izzhov wrote:Also, I agree with the Interactive Civilian. Yeah. I don't usually correct someone's grammar unless it's ambiguous. For example, I don't really care whether someone uses "who" or "whom" (unless it's a formal contract or something) because it doesn't really make a sentence ambiguous. But sometimes things like dangling modifiers and parallel structure can be legitimately confusing and misunderstood by the person being spoken to. (Yeah, I realize I just used the passive. :P )

Why are you so weak and unsure of yourself? :P :twisted:

Don't get me wrong. The passive is not evil. There are times when it is a better choice, such as in the materials and methods section of a scientific paper where we really don't care WHO did something but that something was done.

However, in your case, I would have simply said "misunderstood by the listener".

The wisdom of Strunk & White: "omit needless words." ;)

Cheers. :D
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Interactive Civilian » Wed Feb 06, 2008 3:01 am UTC

Dextrose wrote:It is how it's spoken, and "I wish I was fishing" accomplishes the same task in speaking as "I wish I were fishing;" the latter is merely more formal, indirect and wistful.

Oh yeah... I wanted to address this specific thing because, this is pretty much what the thread is about. Here is my beef with "I wish I was fishing".

First of all, while it may be formal, it is neither indirect nor wistful. It is actually clearer and more direct than the other. Break it down like this:

"I was fishing" describes a real situation in the past.
"I wish I were fishing" describes an imaginary situation in the present.
"I wish I was fishing" is a bastard hybrid that doesn't make sense. Are you talking about now or the past?

See, if you use it correctly, then it is very clear:
"I wish I were fishing." = an imaginary situation now
"I wish I had been fishing." = an imaginary situation at some time in the past

I have heard people use "I wish I was fishing" for both, and that is why I have a problem with people using the incorrect form. You are removing clarity from the language because you are lazy, not because it promotes better communication.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Dextrose » Wed Feb 06, 2008 3:19 am UTC

...Jesus christ, I'm about to just destroy this Mac. Fuck Macs, seriously. This keyboard arrangement and the touchpad sensitivity is constantly fucking up my life. It just so happens that one of the key combinations I use regularly is right next to the keybinding for "close window." God job there, Apple, putting your "do everything" operator right under where I type instead of far away from where I type like it's supposed to be.

Point being I just lost a really long post I'd written about the both of you basically being fucks. I'm not in the mood to rewrite it. I'll paraphrase slightly. Edit: I saw your two new posts, Interacivilian, after I wrote this - I'm pretty sure I address what you're talking about, and I don't want to try to rewrite it given the new information, because I don't care enough right now. If there's any confusion, let me know.

The grammar has shifted. "If I was king" is a perfectly legitimate subjunctive, it is used as such and there is no reason why it shouldn't be used as such, *except* for its occasional conflation with the indicative. I think the point here is that the subjunctive is conjugated in a pretty fucked-up manner to begin with, so I don't see the problem with using a different conjugation to express the same thing, particularly when it's more comfortable and accessible. Besides that, the indicative can be just as logically expressed using "If I had been king (at the time)" or "If I had been named king (then)." In fact, these carry more weight than the indicative you're talking about, because there's more information being carried. All these word combinations point to something, and "ye olde subjunctivve" is perfectly understandable to somebody who speaks the language natively but probably isn't appropriate for most people to use themselves. It's a dialect nobody really speaks. And it's no better than the dialect I use just because people have been using it longer.

Edit: One little tack-on. 'Were' is also past-tense, which is my point that 'were' is no better than 'was' for the subjunctive. There are many merits to using 'was' instead of 'were,' and it really takes an idiot to think it's actually ambiguous. It's the same kind of mix-up as hearing, "I have been fishing," and replying, "Who's Ben Fishing, and why do you have him?" It's not removing clarity from the language if people still know how to say what they're trying to say, which they do. Deal with it.

Also, what I'm bitter about is exactly what I said before - asshole lectors who don't know what they're talking about. Like...you. Putting words in my mouth doesn't make you cool. I happen to be on a pretty damn good scholarship at a school with an English department which was responsible for the most atrocious entry exam I've ever encountered, on account of the fact that it attempts to make the same kind of ridiculous assumptions about language that you're trying to push on your students. I still aced it, because I know the language well enough to know what's expected, even if it's not right, and I still got dumped in entry-level English because them's the breaks here at Berklee - the only way to enter higher is with AP credits, from a curriculum, I might add, which is also completely uneducational. Basically, I'm bitter about people who assume they know what's right and wrong who don't have time to consider what is and isn't. So I'd have to say you're the one making over-reaching assumptions over here, not me. Ooh, I bet you love the use of that object pronoun, don't you, you fuck. If that's seriously the way you're running your class, I still object to it, because you're still giving your students the wrong sense of what is good English, so belt up.

Izzhov: I have the capacity to be perfectly calm so long as you don't stand up, shit on my native English in my native country, then act like your shit is actually fine satin and I should be happy it was shat upon me. If you've got something to say, say it - join the conversation and quit just acting like you're superior.


P.S., yes, it was longer than this. Fucking Macs.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Interactive Civilian » Wed Feb 06, 2008 3:35 am UTC

Dextrose wrote: you fuck.

Did I rape your mother or do something equally horrible that I should know about?

As I said, You have NO idea how I run my classes. You can judge me after you have observed my lessons and observed the progress my students make. Until that time, I ask you to keep your presumptions to yourself.

Honestly, with the amount of unprovoked hostility in your posts, you might want to consider stepping away from the computer, taking a deep breath, maybe going outside for some fresh air and maybe a chat with a pretty girl, and calming down a bit. Shit, if this is all it takes to get you worked up into a (virtual) screaming rage, then you must be a hell of a teacher. Do you gut your students if they use a structure that you don't like? Or do you just call them "fuck"s as well?

You come in here with nothing but hostility, flinging insults for no reason at all. You take what was a civil discussion and you make it extremely negative just because you have some unknown (to us) issues about rules of the English language. Judging by your posting style, either something very extreme happened (English teacher killed your dog?) or you are just extremely immature and unable to conduct yourself in a civil manner.

Calm down and come back when you can have a civil discussion.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Izzhov » Wed Feb 06, 2008 3:49 am UTC

Interactive Civilian wrote:Judging by your posting style, either something very extreme happened (English teacher killed your dog?) or you are just extremely immature and unable to conduct yourself in a civil manner.

I think it's the former, judging from this:
Dextrose wrote:I'm bitter because I got dumped in entry-level English at Berklee.

...That explains a lot.

Dextrose wrote:Izzhov: I have the capacity to be perfectly calm so long as you don't stand up, shit on my native English in my native country, then act like your shit is actually fine satin and I should be happy it was shat upon me. If you've got something to say, say it - join the conversation and quit just acting like you're superior.

Hmm... you must have just been skimming the posts, as I have actually said some arguably somewhat substantial things prior to this post. :P

Anydangway, when I posted this thread, I was merely trying to point out the fact that an aspect which is common to many other languages (and is actually quite useful, when you think about it) is being slowly dissolved into the chaotic abyss that is American English. Though you've shown to me that there is essentially no way of saving it, one can only hope that it may return with a vengeance sometime in the future.

I suppose I realize now that the subjunctive mood isn't really necessary, in most cases, for clarity, and I am now more accepting of its inevitable demise. But that doesn't change the fact that it's cool and useful, y'know?

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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Interactive Civilian » Wed Feb 06, 2008 3:57 am UTC

Izzhov wrote:
Interactive Civilian wrote:Judging by your posting style, either something very extreme happened (English teacher killed your dog?) or you are just extremely immature and unable to conduct yourself in a civil manner.

I think it's the former, judging from this:
Dextrose wrote:I'm bitter because I got dumped in entry-level English at Berklee.

...That explains a lot.

I realize you are being sarcastic, or at least it seems that way.

If something as small as getting dumped into a class I didn't want caused me so much bitterness and hostility, I probably wouldn't be able to function in the real world. Something like that shouldn't be too hard to cope with and get over. Based on that, I'm going to guess it was the latter. ;)
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Izzhov » Wed Feb 06, 2008 4:12 am UTC

Interactive Civilian wrote:I realize you are being sarcastic, or at least it seems that way.

If something as small as getting dumped into a class I didn't want caused me so much bitterness and hostility, I probably wouldn't be able to function in the real world. Something like that shouldn't be too hard to cope with and get over. Based on that, I'm going to guess it was the latter. ;)

Ehh, good point. I still kinda disagree, but I don't want to get too off-topic, so whatever. :)

So, Z.A.K, you say that Spaniards use the subjunctive with wild abandon. Does this mean they take semi-random common verb phrases and put them in the subjunctive? I believe I've seen that before. If not, what?

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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Dextrose » Wed Feb 06, 2008 5:07 am UTC

Interactive Civilian: Oh please. If that's your reading comprehension level, then you have no business teaching English whatsoever. Don't initiate a piece of rhetoric to insult me, then irrationally generalise my response to the same rhetoric just to insult me again. You're being just as "inconsiderate" as I am, I'm just a mite more direct about it than you are. I'm sorry, man, but my English is something I hold very dear, and if you're going to use it in an intellectually offensive manner, expect me to show up deriding you for it, and if you're going to use it to pull these hackneyed attempts at argument, do not expect civility from me. I stop playing the "who can twist whose words better" game when I see it happening, because I don't need an irrelevant witticism to tell you I think you're a bastard. I could just as easily say that, judging by your posting style, you have no concern for the usefulness of the language you're discussing in the first place. But I'm not a fan of he-said she-said. If you're going to treat the debate as disrespectfully as you have, then I will treat you with the same disrespect - i.e., if you're saying "fuck you" to my grammar, regardless of the lofty terms you use to do so, it's coming right back at you. We can have the discussion about the different uses of the grammar, and you could do what I've done, which is fairly acknowledge the use and correctness of a variety of sayings that are used by totally sensible speakers. Or you could go around, doing what you're doing, which is shutting people down for speaking in a certain way. I'm not mad because you want to speak the way you want to speak. I'm mad because you want to shove that down other peoples' throats, pretending it belongs there. Speaking of mad, accusing me of being out of control at my computer just because I'm up your ass about this only makes you look stupid. I'm not so retarded that I take, well, you seriously, and totally ignoring the important things I have to say (which, by my count, you did) makes me take you even less seriously. At least I'm giving what you've said some honest thought, which is a lot more than I can say about you.

And Izzhov, you're just being an asshole now.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Zak » Wed Feb 06, 2008 5:41 am UTC

How is he shoving anything down anyone's throat? He said that in his classroom he teaches his students realistic english. If you think he is lying you may as well call that on every post made in this thread.

If you are talking about him, "forcing his views" on you here, this is a public forum.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Feb 06, 2008 5:57 am UTC

An Open Letter to Just About Everyone in This Thread:

Calm. The Fuck. Down.

Play nice or the thread gets locked and several of you get warnings.

Seriously, why so much vitriol on both sides?

Dextrose: I agree with your overall point, that prescriptive grammar is stupid and denies the fact of language change. But a large amount of the animosity here seems to stem from your entering the thread. In the future, you will NOT start posts here with "Know what, man? Fuck you." and end them with "You suck.", or you will not post here at all.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Feb 06, 2008 6:08 am UTC

And now a linguistics post instead of a moderator post.

Interactive Civilian wrote:Of course, that all goes out the window when you break the rules because you can't be bothered to follow them.

Nothing of the kind goes out the window. Just like nothing of the kind happened when all the *other* changes in the past happened to make English what it is today.

Do you seriously believe that every single change separating Modern English from Old English was a good thing, while every single change currently happening in Modern English is suddenly a bad thing?

Do you think that the dropping of noun and adjective cases wasn't someone breaking the rules we used to have? Or dropping the dual? Or later dropping the second-person singular "thou" form and its conjugations? Or switching from (e)th endings on third-person singular verbs to (e)s?

Face it: the English you love so much is the product of thousands of years of grammatical and orthographical and phonological "rule-breaking". The English of our grandchildren will be the same.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Interactive Civilian » Wed Feb 06, 2008 6:11 am UTC

[post deleted in light of gmalivuk's post.]

Apologies. Since my reply was a direct response and not really on topic to the thread, I have removed it, and taken it to private messaging.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Zak » Wed Feb 06, 2008 6:12 am UTC

Yep, the english language, or all languages for that matter, evolve in a way that makes them easier to use, it wouldn't make any sense to do otherwise. Simple as that.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Feb 06, 2008 6:14 am UTC

And the important thing to remember with any kind of evolution is that "what's easier to use" is not a static thing. It changes with the people, so the direction of language change shifts as well. I'm sure speakers of Anglo Saxon would find Modern English at least as hard to wrap their minds around as most English speakers today would with Old English.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Zak » Wed Feb 06, 2008 6:17 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:And the important thing to remember with any kind of evolution is that "what's easier to use" is not a static thing. It changes with the people, so the direction of language change shifts as well. I'm sure speakers of Anglo Saxon would find Modern English at least as hard to wrap their minds around as most English speakers today would with Old English.

That's a pretty funny thing to imagine, Shakespeare walking up to a kid from Philly trying to get directions, and vice versa.

This is especially true with the advent of the internet.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Interactive Civilian » Wed Feb 06, 2008 6:29 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:~snip~
Do you seriously believe that every single change separating Modern English from Old English was a good thing, while every single change currently happening in Modern English is suddenly a bad thing?
~snip~
Face it: the English you love so much is the product of thousands of years of grammatical and orthographical and phonological "rule-breaking". The English of our grandchildren will be the same.

Fair enough. However, it seems like breaking the rules for the sake of breaking the rules. I don't mean to sound like a grammar nazi, but changing "If I were..." to "If I was..." seems like changing an arbitrary traditional rule to an arbitrary modern rule for no reason. However, as I was about to say but then deleted, while I prefer the traditional usage and don't like the sound of the modern usage, I don't mark points off or correct people if they use it (I cringe and a little piece of me dies, but I don't punish).

As long as "If I were..." remains correct, I have nothing to get worked up about, natch. :)

However, if we are into rule-breaking without losing clarity, then why not get rid of verb conjugations completely? Nothing seems to be lost by saying any of the following:
"I be tired"
"You be tired."
"He be tired."

If you were an employer looking at a potential job applicant for a PR job, would you be willing to hire someone who spoke and used English like that, assuming it were colloquially acceptable?

I don't have any problems with languages evolving. I like it when things evolve. However, that doesn't necessarily stop me from getting a little of the "damn kids these days" syndrome when I hear someone speaking ebonics. ;)

Again, apologies for earlier hostilites in the thread.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Zak » Wed Feb 06, 2008 6:32 am UTC

Interactive Civilian wrote:However, if we are into rule-breaking without losing clarity, then why not get rid of verb conjugations completely? Nothing seems to be lost by saying any of the following:
"I be tired"
"You be tired."
"He be tired."

This will most likely become some form of slang or another around 30 years in the future, if it isn't already.
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Interactive Civilian » Wed Feb 06, 2008 6:40 am UTC

Z.A.K wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:And the important thing to remember with any kind of evolution is that "what's easier to use" is not a static thing. It changes with the people, so the direction of language change shifts as well. I'm sure speakers of Anglo Saxon would find Modern English at least as hard to wrap their minds around as most English speakers today would with Old English.

That's a pretty funny thing to imagine, Shakespeare walking up to a kid from Philly trying to get directions, and vice versa.

This is especially true with the advent of the internet.

Heh. I can just imagine on IRC:

Internet Guy#1: shut up n00b!
Shakespeare: Wherefore art thou speaking thus?
Internet Guy#1: lolz! j00 sound like a fag!
*Shakespeare bites his thumb*
Shakespeare: I bite my thumb at you!
Internet Guy#2: pwnd

:mrgreen:
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Zak » Wed Feb 06, 2008 6:43 am UTC

One thing that i really hope doesn't happen is having lolcat become standard. I can has worry? :?
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Interactive Civilian » Wed Feb 06, 2008 6:50 am UTC

Z.A.K wrote:
Interactive Civilian wrote:However, if we are into rule-breaking without losing clarity, then why not get rid of verb conjugations completely? Nothing seems to be lost by saying any of the following:
"I be tired"
"You be tired."
"He be tired."

This will most likely become some form of slang or another around 30 years in the future, if it isn't already.

One of the reasons this came to mind is that I was listening to Digible Planets this morning. ;)

"We be to rap what key be to lock" 8)

You have to admit, for the people in the transition stage, going into a 100% no conjugation of "be" system would sound strange.

This is the same way that "If I was" sounds strange to me, in certain situations. I guess my main points above were the loss of clarity brought when people use "If I was..." even more "incorrectly" by using it to talk about the past.

[edit]oops...meant to put the "incorrectly" in "even more incorrectly" in quotes
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby 4=5 » Wed Feb 06, 2008 7:26 am UTC

well I kinda like the number difference between is and are (slightly messed up by the disappearance of thee and thou) but yes I frequently use "be" because it's fun.

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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Feb 06, 2008 4:34 pm UTC

Interactive Civilian wrote:I don't mean to sound like a grammar nazi, but changing "If I were..." to "If I was..." seems like changing an arbitrary traditional rule to an arbitrary modern rule for no reason.

That's just it. It's arbitrary. People who don't see the need for separate subjunctive verbs hear "I were" and *that* is what sounds wrong to them. So they change it to the normal past tense verb, even knowing that it's not actually something in the past. After all, "If you were" also uses the same form as the past indicative. As does every single other verb apart from "be".

So I remain unconvinced that changing "were" to "was" in this one case actually loses much of anything for the English language.

If you were an employer looking at a potential job applicant for a PR job, would you be willing to hire someone who spoke and used English like that, assuming it were colloquially acceptable?

Of course not. I know how *other* people still feel about language usage, and I know that it would reflect badly on my company if others had to interact with someone who seemed, on the face of it, to be uneducated. Formal English, whether or not it's somehow "more correct" than this sort of thing, does still carry with it the suggestion of higher education and a higher value placed thereon.

But it's for that reason and that reason alone that *my* ESL classes focus on more formal English grammar. I don't think students talking differently are necessarily doing it in a bad or incorrect manner. So when I correct something perfectly understandable but incorrect (according to the rules of formal grammar), I usually say "this is better" or "this is more formal". (Sometimes it's a phrase they've heard in a movie or music or read in a book or the news or something, so clearly they know it is something used by native English speakers and my telling them it was just plain "wrong" would probably be more confusing than helpful.)
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Re: The Subjunctive Mood is DYING in English!

Postby Interactive Civilian » Wed Feb 06, 2008 5:08 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:But it's for that reason and that reason alone that *my* ESL classes focus on more formal English grammar. I don't think students talking differently are necessarily doing it in a bad or incorrect manner. So when I correct something perfectly understandable but incorrect (according to the rules of formal grammar), I usually say "this is better" or "this is more formal". (Sometimes it's a phrase they've heard in a movie or music or read in a book or the news or something, so clearly they know it is something used by native English speakers and my telling them it was just plain "wrong" would probably be more confusing than helpful.)

Again, I agree. I was less than clear on this in previous posts. When I teach and drill, I focus on what is considered the "standard" in what I consider "international English" (e.g. I hear "If I was" a lot more in American English than British, Australian, South African, etc. English). Since my current students are not necessarily studying English to go to the United States (and even more so because British English seems to have a stronger influence here in Thailand, or at least, there are a lot of International Schools that follow British standards), I usually give them the traditional subjunctive first (though I rarely use grammar terms in my classes... I usually just say, "When you are using 'if' to imagine about now 'be' always becomes 'were'.") Then, I also inform them that people, mainly in the US, also say, "If I was...". Then I tell them that, while it isn't incorrect, I would prefer that they learn and practice "If I were..." but be able to recognize and understand "If I was...". Some may disagree with me on this, but... Well, that's part of my teaching style.

Apologies for not making this clearer earlier in the thread.

Basically, in my ESL classes, I try to focus on what is standard internationally. I don't try to make my students believe that one form or another is necessarily "right" or "wrong", but I do focus on what is more commonly used and/or what they are more likely to hear or need. Basically, for this argument, "If I were..." is never wrong, but "If I was..." may sound strange to a large number of people around the world.

However, like I mentioned, I don't deduct points for students using one form over another, nor do I correct them while they are speaking and using it. I hope that ESL teachers can agree that, even if the student isn't using the best, most acceptable, or even correct grammar, being understood clearly is what is most important.

However, hearing "If I was you, I wouldn't do that" still makes me cringe a little. ;)

On a slight sidenote, I was doing the same thing today with regards to saying, "This is better," or, "This is more formal," verses "This is correct and that is wrong," when who/whom came up and the topic of ending a statement or a question with a preposition (I was teaching passive vs. active, and how to form questions using the passive voice).

With a lot of the flexibility in the various forms of the English Language, my teaching often comes down to something like me saying, "This is how the textbook says it, that is how these people say it, that way is how those other people say it, and this way is how I personally say it. Choose whichever you like and feel free to mix and match. As long as the person you are communicating with can understand you, then don't worry too much." (filling in the underlines with whatever it is I am teaching).

Maybe I'm not such a good teacher, but my students seem to respond well enough and their ability to communicate in English improves quite a bit, and that is all I really care about. :)
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