The survival of the subjunctive

evidence of its use in Australia and elsewhere

Pam Peters*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Citations (Scopus)


The status of the subjunctive is examined in this Australian study of its manifestations in subordinate clauses: in mandative constructions as well as those expressing purpose, condition, concession and the counterfactual. Data from the Australian ACE corpus (1986) is compared with (a) those from the American Brown corpus and the British LOB corpus (both 1961); and with (b) findings from an Australian elicitation survey of 1993. Both the diachronic corpus comparisons and the sociolinguistic profiles associated with the survey indicate declining use of the subjunctive in adverbial clauses, most notably the counterfactual type, but also those expressing purpose, concession and ordinary conditions. However the use of mandative subjunctives is stable, written into a range of corpus materials (fiction and non-fiction), and endorsed by Australians across the age range. The resilience of the mandative subjunctive in Australian (and American) usage contrasts with the prevailing view of British usage commentators, that the subjunctive, if not obsolescent, should not be preserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-103
Number of pages17
JournalEnglish World-Wide
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1998


Cite this