English Daily Workout: The Subjunctive Mood: Formal Commands and Requests

The Subjunctive Mood: Formal Commands and Requests

3. Formal commands and requests

The Simple Present Subjunctive was once more extensively used than it is today. In modern American English, the Simple Present Subjunctive is still used in clauses beginning with the word that which express formal commands or requests. In the following examples, the word that is printed in bold type, and the verbs in the Simple Present Subjunctive are underlined.
e.g. They requested that she arrive early.
      It is important that they be present at the meeting.
      The demand that he provide identification will create a delay.

The main clauses of the preceding examples are they requested, it is important and the demand will create a delay. In the first example, the verb requested is in the Simple Past; in the second example, the verb is is in the Simple Present; and in the third example, the verb will create is in the Simple Future.

As illustrated in these examples, the use of the Simple Present Subjunctive in the subordinate clause of a formal command or request is independent of the tense of the verb in the main clause.

The Simple Present Subjunctive is more commonly used in formal English than in informal English. For instance, the sentence "He advises that you not be late," is an example of formal English. In informal English, the same idea would probably be expressed by the sentence "He advises you not to be late," in which the infinitive is used, rather than a clause requiring the Simple Present Subjunctive.