Monday, May 20, 2013

In the (Subjunctive) Mood

Lawyers frequently use the subjunctive mood and frequently use the wrong verb form when doing so.  The subjunctive mood is used when discussing a situation that one wishes were true (or hopes will become true), but is not then true.  For those confused, think Fiddler on the Roof (“If I were a rich man…”)

Generally, the subjunctive verb tense is the same as the present tense except for the verb “to be,” which becomes “be” in the subjunctive present tense and “were” in the subjunctive past tense.  For example:

Every new employee is trained to use the firm’s software. (Present tense not subjunctive)

The office manager requires every new employee be trained to use the firm’s software. (Present tense subjunctive)

I was an associate at that firm for 10 years. (Past tense not subjunctive) 

If I were still an associate at that firm, I’d take advantage of the 401(k) match. (Past tense subjunctive)

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