The subjunctive mood is a form of the verb when a writer stops dealing with real things about which we can argue (The King is alive, Mary is here) and starts dealing with uncertainties such as wishes, commands and unreal circumstances (Long live the King, if only Mary were here). Were so accustomed to If I were you that it doesnt sound so oddthough it baffled me as a child; nobody ever explained why I was suddenly (and impossibly) more than one person.
The insistence on singular pronouns and nouns being treated as plurals just because we are writing in the subjunctive mood is an outdated grammar rule that should have died a natural death a long time ago. Im convinced its only the extreme pedantry of editors of childrens books that has kept it alive. It has no plausible reason for its existence in the 21st century. I found the following (from Margaret Mahys Underrunnersa book riddled with subjunctives) positively pompous.
Theres another good reason for killing off the subjunctive mood rule that a singular pronoun must be treated as a plural one: too many writers use it incorrectly:
Examples of incorrect use from published booksincorrect because the sentences are not in the subjunctive mood:
Any editor who dares suggests I turn a pronoun (or proper noun) into plural just because I am using the subjunctive mood is in for a hard fight with me! After all, the only way to change a stupid rule is for writers to refuse to use it. Come and join me!
Postscript: Please note, I am not attacking the subjunctive mood itself, only the rule that insists writers use were instead of was even when the pronoun they have used is singular. Judging from some of the feedback I have received, it appears to me that many writers and editors did not read this article properly, or perhaps have extremely poor comprehension skills. They all seem to think I want to kill off the subjunctive mood itself!
© L A Barker Enterprises