12. O conjuntivo

Let's start from a more philosophical perspective. The author is well aware that people are not interested in philosphical debates, however it is easier to understand how a foreign language works by explaining the similarities between the foreign language and the mother tongue instead of describing a foreign language is a bunch or arbitrary rules that has to be learned by heart.

The human brain tends to distinguish in the verbalisation of the reality between real facts, which are described in the indicative mode, and subjective evaluations of the world. If we fear, hope, order, suggest, propose, are afraid of, allow, wish etc. something we don't talk about facts. We talk about things that can happen and we express our subjective attitude concerning these possible events and actions. The same is true for subordinate clauses beginning with conjunctions like while, when, even if, until, that expresses uncertainty concerning the moment when an action will happen and the same is true, if we talk about an irreality.

If we find this distinction made by the human brain necessary, logical, helpful, etc. is irrelevant. Discussing about the usefulness of this concept is as useful as discussing whether it is useful that a stone thrown in the air comes back to earth. The aspects the human brain wants to be taken into account in verbalising the reality are kind of a "natural force" and not the result of democratic decision making. We have this distinction in a lot of languages, for instance in Persian, a language with, although as well of indogermanic origin, has a completely different history.

However one thing is what the brain wants and another thing is whether these wishes can be realised. If the morphological material doesn't allow to express the aspects the brain wants to express, than these aspects can't be taken into account and the morphological material, the grammatical forms of a language, are accidental, the result of an historical process. To keep it short and simple: A subjunctive exists in English, but it can rarely be realised.

If God saves the Queen it is a matter of fact, then he really does it, however that doesn't happen, we therefore only wish that God save the Queen, we use the subjunctive in this case, without s. However in order to use the subjunctive in a systematic coherent way we need it in ALL TENSES. We need present subjunctive, a present perfect conjunctive, a past tense conjunctive etc. etc. and we don't have that in English. The present subjunctive for instance only differs from the present indicative in the third person singular, there is no s. So in normal speech there is no difference between the indicative and the subjunctive and some people argue, based on logical arguments, that it can disapear, see for instance Sometimes the subjunctive matters. That won’t stop it dying. The question is whether "logic" is the right approach when we discuss linguistic problems. The subjunctive in English is as useful or useless as in roman languages, where it would be a fatal error not to use it. If in the verbalisation of reality in very different parts of the world, in other words if we have in different parts of the world independently a process that led to the the same result, we have to accept that the brain wants this aspect to be considered, because the phenomenon can't be explained otherwise. There is some kind of "genetic" predisposition.

The point is not that the brain of English or german native speakers, german has the same problem, differs from the brain of a Persian native speaker or from the brain of a native speaker of any roman language. The point is, that neither English nor german has the morphological material to realise the conjunctive. In English only the verb to be in the first and third person singular has a conjunctive form in the past tense: If I were rich, I would stop working. <=> ~ If I was rich I would stop working. The basic logic however is the same as the article above confirms.

He’s obsessed with the idea that everybody admire him.
He’s obsessed with the idea that everybody admires him.

The author of the article mentioned above confirms that the meaning is different. In the first sentence he wants to be admired and does anything to be admired. In the second sentence he is admired. The basic idea of the subjunctive is therefore not very difficult to understand. The basic idea is the same as in English, although the subjunctive in English or german is not a full fledged system with a coherent logic. Since for any verbal tense there is a subjunctive tense in roman languages, in general the same rules to be applied in the use of the tenses in indicativ have to be applied as well in the use of the tenses in subjunctive as we will see in the following chapters.





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