10.1 Introduction congiuntivo

Now we get to one of the two highlight, the other one is the tense system, of the romance languages, the congiuntivo / subjunctive. If you speak French or Spanish you know already what it is, in French it is called subjonctif, in Spanish subjuntivo, but it is the same thing. Normally grammar books tend to present the congiuntivo / conjunctive of the romance languages as something that doesn't exist in English. At the other side, there is a general rule in linguistics. If the phonetic or morphological material allows a similar construction, all languages construct in a similar way. In other words, to realize the subjunctive in English, you need the morphological material to do it and English, as well as German, don't have it, nevertheless the subjunctive exists in English as well, but since there are only few verbs where there is a difference between the indicative and the subjunctive normally you don't notice that there is a subjunctive as well in English. Let's have a look at these sentences.

a) indicative: They read the book.
a) subjunctive: I wish that you read the book.

b) indicative: He reads the book.
b) subjunctive: I wish that he read the book.

As you can see, in a) the indicative and the subjunctive are the same, read, and so there is no difference between the indicative and the subjunctive, but there is no doubt that it exists in English as well. There is difference between a real fact, something sure and something subjective, something that is feared, wished, desired, hoped, believed, etc.. This distinction seems to be something anchored in human brains, even in Persia this distinction is made. But it depends on the morphological material if that distinction can really be made in speech. You can read everywhere that the Italian subjunctive is a concept unknown in English, but that's not true. The difference is that the romance languages are able to realize this concept consequently because they have the morphological material to do that.

In English there are only some verbs and some forms where there is a difference between the indicative and the subjunctive.

=> The third person singular of all verbs have special form for the subjunctive in the present tense.

indicative: he / she / it comes :He comes.
subjunctive: he / she / it come : I suggest that he come.

=> the verb to be has a special form in all persons in the present

indicative: you are: You are here at nine o'clock.

subjunctive: you be: I recommend you be here at nine o'clock.

=> the verb to be has a special form in the simple past in the singular

indicativ: I was : I was there at ten o' clock.
subjunctive: I were: He requested that I were there at ten o' clock.

The subjunctive is used after verbs who express a personal attitude towards the world because something is desired, wished, feared and so on. In other words, together with verbs like advise, ask, beg, decide, decree, desire, dictate, insist, intend, order, propose, recommend, request, require, suggest, urge, and vote. The list is more or less the same in Italian.

I desire he read the book.
Voglio che legga il libro.

The congiuntivo is not only used after verbs, but also after conjunctions and idiomatic expressions which express a subjective attitude (that's why it is called subjuntivo in Spanish and subjunctive in French) towards the world. It is used if something is insure, unreal, feared, desired, ordered, etc..






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