SAT Test Prep
ESSENTIAL GRAMMAR SKILLS
Lesson 14: The Subjunctive Mood
What is the “Mood” of a Verb?
The mood of a verb is its factuality or urgency. There are three moods of verbs in English.
The only “tricky” mood in English is the subjunctive mood. Questions about the subjunctive mood are possible on the SAT, but they are not very common. You should recognize the common situations in which the subjunctive mood must be used, and know how to change the form of the verb accordingly.
The subjunctive mood is usually indicated by auxiliaries like would, should, might, and may, or if the verb is to be, by the forms were and be.
Don’t Overdo It
The subjunctive mood is slowly disappearing from the English language. Many subjunctive forms from the past now sound old-fashioned and are no longer “standard” English.
Watch Your Ifs
One very common mistake is using the construction if … would have … as a past subjunctive form. The correct form is if … had …
Concept Review 14: The Subjunctive Mood
1. Name five auxiliaries that indicate the subjunctive mood.
2. What does the subjunctive mood indicate?
Circle the correct subjunctive verb form in each of the following sentences.
3. If I (was/were) a little faster, I’d be able to anchor the relay team.
4. In fact, I (was/were) only 5 years old at the time.
5. He would feel better if only he (ate/would eat).
6. He asks that we (are/be) there at 6 o’clock sharp.
7. I wish that he (were/was) not so presumptuous about my motives.
8. If he (would have/had) caught the ball, the inning would be over now.
9. If I (was/were) a rock star, I’d tour all over Europe.
10. He plays as though he (was/were) not even injured.
11. I wish I (was/were) six inches taller.
12. I think she (might be/is) in over her head.
13. If she (would have/had) campaigned harder, she might have won the election.
14. I cannot tell whether he (is/be) friend or foe.
Worksheet 14: The Subjunctive Mood
Circle the verb(s) in each sentence. If the verb mood is incorrect, cross it out and write in the correction.
Answer Key 14: The Subjunctive Mood
Concept Review 14
1. might, may, would, could, should
2. that the verb indicates something hypothetical, conditional, suggestive, wishful, or counter to fact
3. If I were a little faster, I’d be able to anchor the relay team.
4. In fact, I was only 5 years old at the time.
5. He would feel better if only he would eat.
6. He asks that we be there at 6 o’clock sharp.
7. I wish that he were not so presumptuous about my motives.
8. If he had caught the ball, the inning would be over now.
9. If I were a rock star, I’d tour all over Europe.
10. He plays as though he were not even injured.
11. I wish I were six inches taller.
12. I think she might be in over her head.
13. If she had campaigned harder, she might have won the election. (Don’t say If she would have free-thinking)
14. I cannot tell whether he is friend or foe. (The form be is formally correct also, but such usage is now considered archaic.)
1. We doubted that she would get enough votes to force a runoff, let alone win outright.
2. If I were going to take the SAT tomorrow, I’d be sure to get plenty of sleep tonight.
3. If I had known that it would take this long, I’d have gone out for a snack.
4. I would have liked to be there just to see the panicked look on his face.
5. The camp counselors asked that we be in our beds with lights out promptly at 10 o’clock.
6. David ran as if he were carrying a refrigerator on his back.
7. I wish that we had paid the extra $50 a night to get a better room.
8. Miss Hannigan demanded that we be silent unless spoken to and (omit should) always do what we’re told.
9. He spoke as if he were an expert in the field of international relations.
10. I would have remembered to leave a generous tip, but I left my wallet at home.
11. Had I known beforehand, I would not have mentioned her ex-boyfriend. (Correct)
12. If the rest of the class had voted the way I did, we wouldn’t be taking the test today.