Tag Archivio per: #subjunctive


The first one that I remember is Fantozzi with “go countess, go”, then came more through tweets and memes, clumsy public declarations, full of indicatives out of place. The most recent is Di Maio “I undertake to make all the parliamentary group that I represent vote for a law that half (halves) the benefit for members of parliament and introduce(introduces) the precise accounting of expense (expenses) reimbursement”. Passing through Conte, Renzi and Zingaretti.

Basically the times change, but the subjunctive continues to scythe down victims. On the one hand it gives a refined touch, cultural capital. On the other it is a trap lying in waiting to strike: if you get it wrong you certainly don’t don’t come out smelling of roses.


Those unfamiliar with using it correctly, get stuck in hypercorrection: extending the subjunctive to contexts in which the indicative would be much more natural. These are cases which some pundits, like Beppe Severgnini, call “conjunctivitis”.

In the meantime, those who use the subjunctive well, have seen the development of a form of irritation towards an interlocutor who uses grammar incorrectly with the result of stirring up controversy and conflict with those who anyway are proud of their verbal conjunctivitis.

It is also true that the subjunctive is not at all easy to conjugate, the indicative on the other hand is predictable. For this reason, driven by energy saving, the tendency is to use the latter in place of the former. It is a tantalising explanation, but surreptitiously denigrating, because it implies that the indicative be a sort of subjunctive for dummies, a surrogate that allows the same idea to be expressed with less effort.


Shame that the two modes are not completely interchangeable. Alda Mari, Italian researcher at the CNRS in Paris, suggests that there is a slim, but crucial difference between them: the indicative is used to express one’s own personal conviction; the subjunctive, on the other hand, suggests that there is an objective truth, and that whoever is talking be undertaking to seek it. This, according to Mari, allows us to give different nuances to our messages, including insults. Saying “I think you are a cretin”, is less offensive than “I think that you be a cretin”: in the first example it is pure emotive opinion; in the second it has the hair-raising taste of a judgement supported by thorough empirical research.


Basically: treating the indicative as a surrogate subjunctive is not only an injustice against the indicative. It is also an incorrect representation of what happens in the language, whose grammar provides us with sophisticated resources to communicate, that we can modulate on the basis of our purposes. Also by deciding which verbal manner to use.

Probably in the period of “who said that” and of the reversal of knowing and not knowing, where “knowing how to speak in public”, despite not having content or passing it off as such and getting tenses wrong is considered “cool”, some may not agree. Unfortunately for them, the subjunctive is not disappearing and sooner or later, it will turn out to be useful to use it correctly.

Se preferisci leggere l’articolo in italiano: https://www.lauramondino.com/?p=1242