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Oh! if the Muse must flatter lawless sway,
And follow still where Fortune leads the way;
Or, if no basis bear my rising name,
But the fallen ruins of another's fame;-
Then teach me, heaven, to scorn the guilty bays,
Drive from my breast the wretched lust of praise."

Pope. The first couplet of the latter example is in the Indicative form, because the thought is general, without reference to future time; and, therefore, we have comes after the conjunction if, although against the Rules of ordinary Grammars.

The difference, then, between the construction of an Indicative and that of a Subjunctive clause, is, that, in the former, the verb must always be preceded by an auxiliary, and that in the latter, the auxiliary [shall or will] may be inserted or not, as we please: and the sole rule of distinction depends upon the intended meaning of the speaker, as derivable from the general drift of the sentence.

Thus much for the future tense; we shall now inquire, whether, or not, there exists a present tense in the English Subjunctive Mood; and, for this purpose, we shall begin with the verb To Love, on which so many changes have been rung through all the languages of Europe. According to Lowth and his followers, the present tense of the Subjunctive is as follows:


1. If I love,

1. If we love,
2. If thou love, 2. If ye or you love,
3. If he or she love, 3. If they love,

where (say they) the place of the if may be supplied by any other conjunction proper for the Subjunctive Mood.

We may observe, in the outset, that it is only in the second and third persons singular that this Subjunctive differs from the Indicative “ I love, Thou lovest, He loves,” &c. Let us then endeavour to form a dependent sentence, in the present tense, so as we may discover in what this difference consists: “ If he love her, he should [ought to] marry

her.” In this sentence, the verb love appears in the Infinitive, and, consequently, as in the case of future subjunctives, an auxiliary may be understood as preceding it. But, the clause being in the present tense, that auxiliary must be the verb, To do, and therefore we may complete the sentence thus :

“ If he does love her, he should marry her.” This, however, brings us back to the Indicative, and we might as well have said, “ If he loves her, he should marry her.”


Again, “ If thine eye offend thee pluck it out." That is, if meant to be in the present tense, "If thine

eye does offend thee, pluck it out;" but as it is here given, it may be altogether future; and (as is probable from the context) may mean generally,

“If thine eye shall offend thee, then pluck it out.”

The sentence “If thou love me, keep my commandments” is liable to the same uncertainty; and, in general, while the Indicative form is clearly expressive of the idea, the elision of the es, or est, does, or doth, is almost always productive of ambiguity.

By these and other considerations, we are persuaded that we should never have found a present Subjunctive in our language, had it not arisen from a peculiarity in the conjugation of the Substantive Verb To be. The Indicative had at one period a double form, which is thus given by Ben Jonson in his Grammar, published in 1640:

Present Tense.
We are

I bee

We be Thou art Ye are

Thou beest* Ye be He is They are He beeth* They be.

I am


* We may add to this that I bee, Thou bee, and He bee, were also written; although both those singulars had become obsolete in the time of Jonson.


We were

Pasi Tense.
I was
We were

I were
Thou wast Ye were Thou wert Ye were
He was

They were He were They were. Jonson's partiality for the classic tongues is well known,-his “ learned sock” is proverbial; and yet, notwithstanding those varieties of the Verb, he never speaks of a Subjunctive Mood: on the contrary, when quoting an example, which we should be apt to consider as a Subjunctive, he resolves it by stating that it contains an Infinitive whose governing verb is understood.

Adelung tells us that the Substantive Verb is regular in the languages of Mexico and Peru. It is seldom so in other tongues. The Saxons (for they were different tribes) had two Infinitives, beon and wesan; and the modern English appears to be a mixture of these with some other Conjugations. Be and been are from the first; was and wast belong to the second; wert and were seem more allied to the Danish være; while am, art, is, and are, would claim a different origin. Dr. Wallis, whose “Grammatica Linguæ Anglicanæ" was first printed in 1653, differs little from Jonson. “ This verb," says he, “is sufficiently anomalous, and has in fact a double form. am, art, is,-plural are.


In the present, {be, be'st be,-plural be.

In the Preterite Swast, wast, was,-plural were.

Imperfect. 2 were, wert, were,-plural were.

“ The first form, as well in the present as in the preterite, is chiefly used wherever the Latins would put the Indicative Mood ;-the second, almost always in other cases." Here we discover the earliest dawnings of a Subjunctive; for it was then not only unstable in its usage, but had not even acquired the name.

Having, accidentally, got two Indicative forms of the Verb To Be, Grammarians, when language came to be more critically investigated, endeavoured to discriminate between them; and (as is practised with all words that are originally synonymous) they wished to assign to each its peculiar province. Hence arose the imperfect attempts at a present Subjunctive; we say imperfect, because there is no case in which the Indicative form would be ungrammatical. Besides, such phrases as, " If I be,If thou be," “ If I love," “ If thou love,” &c. are perpetually in danger of being mistaken for futures, where the words be, love, &c. are undoubtedly Infinitives. On the other hand, if the word be is merely considered as a substitute for am, art, is, and are, it ceases to be a Subjunctive.

The translators of the authorized version of

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