The survival of the subjunctive: evidence of its use in Australia and elsewhere

Pam Peters*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    26 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


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