What is a Mandative Subjunctive?

Definition and Examples

The use of the subjunctive mood in a subordinate clause that follows an expression of command, demand, or recommendation.

Like the formulaic subjunctive, the mandative subjunctive consists of the base form of the verb. It is distinctive only in the third-person singular of the present tense. (In other words, the -s ending is omitted.)

In the Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar (1994), Chalker and Weiner note that the mandative subjunctive "has made a considerable comeback in British English in recent years, probably under American influence." Yet in all varieties of English, the mandative subjunctive is far more common in writing than in speech.

Examples and Observations:

  • "High school counselors recommended she go to vocational school instead of college, even though she was in the National Honor Society."
    (Sylvia Mendoza, The Book of Latina Women. Adams Media, 2004)​
  • "[T]he Judge was chipper as he insisted that the Carrot Orange Bisque be the first course for the anniversary celebration."
    (Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Diana von Welanetz Wentworth, Chicken Soup for the Soul Cookbook. HCI Books, 1995)​
  • "Dr. King felt his training demanded that he bring to the Dexter Avenue congregation the greatest social gospel and action program it had ever experienced."
    (Ralph Abernathy, quoted by David Garrow in Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. HarperCollins, 1986)
  • "'But I've never even tried to write a story,' Ellison protested when Wright suggested he take up writing."
    (Ralph Ellison, quoted by Timothy Parrish in Ralph Ellison and the Genius of America. University of Massachusetts Press, 2012)

    Regional Trends in the Use of the Mandative Subjunctive

    • "Divergent regional trends in the use of the subjunctive have been noted by a number of modern English grammarians. Use of the mandative subjunctive, i.e. after expressions of demand, recommendation, intention, etc., seems to have varied considerably. AmE is strongly inclined to use the mandative subjunctive, as in I recommend that he talk to a specialist, while BrE prefers the periphrastic construction with the modal auxiliary should, as in I recommend that he should talk to a specialist.
    • "Australian use of the mandative subjunctive lies somewhere between that of AmE and BrE, in comparative corpus data used by Peters (1998a)." (Peter Collins and Pam Peters, "Australian English: Morphology and Syntax." A Handbook of Varieties of English: A Multi-Media Reference Tool, ed. by Bernd Kortmann and Edgar W. Schneider. Mouton de Gruyter, 2005)

    The Future of the Mandative Subjunctive [MS] in World English​​

    • "[T]he future of MS still looks rather constrained. It is still largely confined to institutional kinds of speech, and not readily used in ordinary conversation. The linguistic constraints on its use include the fact that the suasive verbs like demand which currently show the highest frequencies of MS also have rather specialized uses, because of the unequal interpersonal relationship they presuppose, and discoursal settings in which they can be used. Even where it is demonstrably still current usage, MS seems to be marked rather than stylistically neutral. . . . Its popularity probably varies within particular English-speaking communities, which may lead to declining use over the course of time." (Pam Peters, "The Mandative Subjunctive in Spoken English." Comparative Studies in Australian and New Zealand English: Grammar and Beyond, ed. by Pam Peters, Peter Collins, and Adam Smith. John Benjamins, 2009)