May 21, 2012 | Review Period

Subjunctive Is Like Music

Or so one grammarian claims.

A new book I bought, The French Subjunctive Up Close by Annie Heminway, begins with the following question: “Are you ‘subjunctophobic’?”

Me, Going to Concert at St. Bartholomew's Church; It Did Not Remind Me of Subjunctive

Me, Going to Concert at St. Bartholomew’s Church; It Did Not Remind Me of Subjunctive

This book cracks me up. She continues further down the page, “Verbs conjugated in the subjunctive make up a wonderful and captivating tribe, rich in mysteries, nuances, and conundrums, a wandering tribe whose home is everywhere, which means that no realm, in the continuum from absolute certainty to total nebulosity, will remain closed to it. The subjunctive is like music, which the German philosopher Leibniz defined as a ‘secret arithmetic unknowingly practiced by the soul.’”

Funnily enough, I was at an actual concert when I read those words. I mean, the concert hadn’t actually begun, but once it did, I kept in mind those words and considered whether the music reminded me of subjunctive.

I decided it did not.

I do love when people have such enthusiasm for things that are of such indifference to other people. I am not among the indifferent, obviously, but I don’t get quite that worked up about subjunctive. Present perfect and conditional perhaps, but not subjunctive.

Two pages later I read, “‘Subjunctive’ comes from the Latin subjunctivus, meaning ‘attached under.’” How cool is that?!

Comments (1)

mimi • Posted on Thu, August 09, 2012 - 10:58 pm EST

attached under? that IS great. I like subjunctive too, and I love it when I find it in English.

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