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Passive constructions with prepositional monotransitive verbs


Active: Passive: The man referredto this book. This book was referred to by the man.


In the passive construction the subject of the prepositional passive construction corresponds to the object of the active construction and denotes the receiver of the action. The peculiarity of the construction is that the preposition sticks to the verb.

Most verbs of this type denote the process of speaking, mental and physical perception.

The prepositional passive construction has no equivalent in Russian and is translated by an indefinite personal active construction.


Caroline was also still being talked about. Не had never been spoken to that way in his life. He’s well spoken of as a man of science. О Кэролайн тоже все еще продолжали говорить. С ним так никогда в жизни не разговаривали. О нем хорошо отзываются как об ученом.


When the prepositional passive construction contains a modal verb, an impersonal active construction is used in Russian.


These pictures must be looked at again and again with sustained attention before they completely reveal their beauty. На эти картины надо смотреть снова и снова с неослабевающим вниманием, прежде чем полностью раскроется их красота.


Here are some of the most important prepositional monotransitive verbs:

to account for to agree upon to appeal to to call on to comment on (upon) to deal with to decide on to depend (up)on to dispose of to dwell upon to hear of to insist on to interfere with to laugh at to listen to to look at to look for to look into to object to to pay for to provide for to put up with to read to to refer to to rely on to send for to speak about (of) to speak to to talk about (of) to think about (of) to touch upon to wait for to wonder at to catch sight of to lose sight of to find fault with to make fun of to make a fuss of to make use of to pay attention to to put an end (a stop) to to put up with to set fire to to take notice of to take advantage of to take care of   to arrive at to come to to live in to sleep in to sit in (on)

Group I in the list contains the majority (but not all) of prepositional transitive verbs. The list could be continued, for a number of verbs of the kind are used occasionally, but the pattern itself is very productive.

Some prepositional monotransitive verbs have non-prepositional equivalents, e.g. to account for is a synonym for to explain, to look on - to regard, to speak (talk) about - to discuss.


Your absence must be accounted for. = Your absence must be explained.


Group II contains phraseological units based on the fusion of a monotransitive verb and a noun as direct object. These units express one notion and function as prepositional verbs. Many of them have synonyms among monotransitive verbs, prepositional and non-prepositional:


to take care of to find fault with to put an end to to put up with to make fun of - to look after, to tend; - to grumble at, about, to criticize; - to stop; - to reconcile oneself to; - to laugh at, to mock.

Like single prepositional verbs the phraseological units with the verb in the passive voice are usually rendered in Russian by means of indefinite personal or impersonal constructions.


In hospital patients are taken great care of. The boy was the only child and was made a lot of fuss of. I’m not prepared to think that I’m being made a fool of. В госпитале за больными хорошо ухаживают. Мальчик был единственным ребенком в семье, и с ним много возились. Мне не хочется думать, что меня дурачат.  


Sometimes a phraseological unit is split and the original direct object becomes the subject of the passive construction (the direct passive).


No notice was taken of the boy at first. - Сначала мальчика не замечали.


Group III contains a short list of intransitive verbs used with preposi­tional nominal groups functioning as prepositional objects or adverbial modifiers. These may form passive constructions by analogy with other verbs used with prepositions:


No conclusion was arrived at. His bed hasn’t been slept in. Such a dress can’t be sat down in. He пришли ни к какому заключению. В его постели не спали. (Она не смята) В таком платье нельзя садиться.  

The use of the passive voice

§ 71. The passive voice is widely used in English. It is used alongside the active voice in written and spoken English. Passive constructions are often used instead of active constructions in sentences beginning with an indefinite pronoun, a noun or a pronoun of indefinite reference.


Somebody left the dog in the garden. Has anybody answered your questions? People will laugh at you for your trouble. They told me to go away. = The dog was left in the garden. = Have your questions been answered? = You will be laughed at for your trouble. = I was told to go away.


It is evident that in the process of speech passive constructions arise naturally, not as a result of conversion from the active into the passive.

A passive construction is preferable in case when the speaker is interested in what happens to the person or thing denoted by the subject. The verb or the whole verb phrase is thus made more prominent. The agent or the source of the action is not mentioned at all, either because it is unknown or because it is of no particular importance in the utterance, or else it is evident from the context or the situation. The predicate verb with its modifiers contains a new and most important item of information and is of great communicative value.


We were brought up together.

I am always being contradicted.

Thank you for your help, but it is no longer required.

You will be met as you leave the airport, and you will be given another ticket.

In silence the soup was finished - excellent, if a little thick; and fish was brought. In silence it was



There are a number of conventional expressions where the passive voice is constantly used.


The novel was published in 1929.

Shakespeare was born in 1564.


The use of the agentive by-object


§ 72. The use of the agentive by-object is highly restricted, it occurs in one case out of five, and even less frequently in colloquial speech and imaginative prose. However, when it does occur, the by-object is of great communicative value, and its elimination would often make the meaning of the verb incomplete and the sentence devoid of meaning.

The agent may be a living being, or any thing or notion that can be the source of the action.


The whole scene was being enacted by puppets.

In some areas the picture has been barely touched by the brush.

I was wounded by a landmine.

The distant mountain had been formed by fire and water.

How much was she influenced by that fake idea?


Besides a noun and very rarely a pronoun, a by-object may be a gerundial phrase or complex, or a subordinate clause.


I was then awakened only by knocking on the window and Annie telling the person responsible to go off.

She didn’t really know anything about people, she was always being taken in by what they told her.


Owing to its communicative value and the final position in the sentence, the by-object may be expanded, if necessary, to an extent that is hardly possible in the subject group, as in this commentary on Cezanne's painting:

“The Card Players.” The subject of this painting of two peasants playing cards was probably inspired by a similar composition by one of the brothers de Pack, French painters of the seventeenth century whose work Cezanne admired.


The category of mood


§ 73. The meaning of this category is the attitude of the speaker or writer towards the content of the sentence, whether the speaker considers the action real, unreal, desirable, necessary, etc. It is expressed in the form of the verb.

There are three moods in English - the indicative mood, the impera­tive mood and the subjunctive mood.


The indicative mood


§ 74. The indicative mood form shows that what is said must be regarded as a fact, as something which has occurred or is occurring at the moment of speaking or will occur in the future. It may denote actions with different time-reference and different aspective characteristics. Therefore the indicative mood has a wide variety of tense and aspect forms in the active and passive voice.


The imperative mood


§ 75. The imperative mood expresses a command or a request to perform an action addressed to somebody, but not the action itself. As it does not actually denote an action as a real act, it has no tense category; the unfulfilled action always refers to the future. Aspect distinctions and voice distinctions are not characteristic of the imperative mood, although forms such as, be writing, be warned sometimes occur.

The imperative mood form coincides with the plain stem of the verb, for example: Come here! Sit down. The negative form is built by means of the auxiliary do + the negative particle not (the contracted form is don’t). This form is always addressed to the second person.


Do not take it away.

Don’t worry about the child.

Don’t be a fool.




Do is also used in commands or requests to make them more emphatic: Do come and stay with us. Do be quiet.


In commands and requests addressed to a first or third person (or persons) the analytical form let + infinitive without the particle to is used. The verb let functions as an auxiliary, and it partly loses its lexical mean­ing. The person addressed is expressed by the personal pronoun in the objective case.


Let us go together.

Let him finish his dinner first.

Let Andrew do it himself.


In negative sentences the analytical forms take the particle not without an auxiliary.


Let us not argue on the matter.

Let him not overestimate his chances.

Let her not go any further.




In sentences like Don’t let him go the negation refers to the verb let, which in this case fully retains its original meaning of permission.


The analytical forms differ in meaning from the synthetic forms, because their meaning is closely connected with the meaning of the pronoun included in the form. Thus let us do smth denotes an invitation to a joint action, not an order or a request. Let him do it retains to some extent the meaning of permission. In the form let me (let me do it) the first person singular does not convey any imperative meaning and should not therefore be regarded as the imperative. It conveys the meaning of I am eager to do it, allow me to do it.


The imperative mood form can’t be used in questions.


The subjunctive mood


§ 76. The subjunctive mood is the category of the verb which is used to express non-facts: unreal or hypothetical actions or states. A hypothetical action or state may be viewed upon as desired, necessary, possible, supposed, imaginary, or contradicting reality.

Different forms of the verb are employed for this purpose.


The synthetic forms


§ 77. In Old English the subjunctive mood was expressed by a special system of forms with a special set of inflections, different from those of the indicative. In the course of time, however, most of the inflections were lost, and the difference between the forms of the subjunctive and those of the indicative has almost disappeared. In Modern English there remain only two synthetic forms of the old regular system of the subjunctive, which differ from the forms of the indicative. Although their meaning and use have changed considerably, they are often called by their old names: the present subjunctive and the past subjunctive.


I. The present subjunctive coincides with the plain verb stem (be, go, see) for all persons in both the singular and the plural. It denotes a hypothetical action referring to the present or future. Of these surviving forms only be is always distinct from the indicative forms and is therefore rather current.


I he she it we you they   be, take, resent, etc.  


He required that all be kept secret.


Other verbs are rarely used in the subjunctive in informal style, because their subjunctive forms coincide with the indicative except in the 3rd person singular. They are confined mainly to formal style and formulaic expressions - prayers, wishes, which should be memorized as wholes.


It is natural enough the enemy resent it.

Heaven forbid! The devil take him!

Long live freedom! God save the king!


II. The past subjunctive is even more restricted in its usage; it exists in Modern English only in the form were, which is used for all persons both in the singular and plural. It refers the hypothetical action to the present or future and shows that it contradicts reality.


If I were you!

If you were there!

If it were true!


The modem tendency, however, is to use was and were in accordance with the rules of agreement (he was, they were).


The non-factual forms of the tenses


§ 78. Owing to the same process of the obliteration of distinctions between the old subjunctive and the indicative the same forms have come to be used for both purposes in Modern English. To differentiate those used to express hypothetical actions or states (non-facts) from tenses in the indicative they will be called non-factual forms of the tenses.

The non-factual past indefinite and past continuous are used to denote hypothetical actions in the present or future; the non-factual past perfect and past perfect continuous denote hypothetical actions in the past. These two pairs of forms differ not only in their time-reference but also in their degree of improbability: If I had only known expresses greater improbability than If I only knew because it refers to a time which has already passed. In Russian this difference is not reflected in the form of the verb.

The wide use of the non-factual past indefinite (If I knew, if he came...) probably accounts for the strong tendency in Modern English to substitute was for the past subjunctive form were, at least in less formal style. This tendency makes the system of subjunctive mood forms more similar and comparable to the system of indicative mood forms: if I knew..., if I was (instead of were), I wish I knew..., I wish I was (instead of were).

On the other hand, were is often used instead of was in the non-factual past continuous.


He smiled as if he were enjoying the situation.


The analytical forms


§ 79. Most of the later formations are analytical, built by means of the auxiliaries which developed from the modal verbs should and would, plus any form of the infinitive. The auxiliaries, generally called mood auxiliaries, have lost their lexical meaning and are used in accordance with strict rules in certain patterns of sentences or clauses. In cases where should and would retain their original modal meaning or their use is not determined by any strict rules, they should be regarded as modal verbs, forming a compound verbal (or nominal) modal predicate. You should be more palient with the child.

Still, some modal verbs are regularly used to denote hypothetical actions in certain syntactic patterns - may/might + infinitive, can/could + infinitive, but to a certain degree retain their original meaning. These will be regarded as quasi-subjunctive forms.


However much you may argue, he will do as he pleases (expresses possibility).

I wish I could help you (expresses ability).

If you would agree to visit my uncle, ... (expresses wish).


Analytic forms may be divided into three groups, according to their use and function.


I. The forms should + infinitive (for the first person singular and plural) and would + infinitive (for the other persons). This system coincides in form with the future in the past. These forms may be used either in a simple sentence or in the main clause.

There is a strong tendency in Modern English to use would for all persons, in the same way as will is used instead of shall in the indicative mood. Another tendency is to use the contracted form of would –‘d for all person in informal style. (Compare this usage with that of the contracted form ‘ll in the indicative.)

These forms denote hypothetical actions, either imagined as resulting from hypothetical conditions, or else presented as a real possibility.


I would not praise the boy so much.

Would you help me if I need your help?

He would smoke too much if I didn’t stop him now and again.


II. The form would + infinitive for all persons, both singular and plural. This form is highly specialised in meaning; it expresses a desirable action in the future. It may be used both in simple and complex sentences.


Let us invite him. He would gladly accept the invitation.

I wish you would go there too.


III. The form should + infinitive for all persons. This form stands apart in the system of the verb, as contrary to the general tendency to use either two forms - should and would, or else to use one form - would for all persons. The meaning of the form is rather broad - it depends on the context.


It is important that all the students should be informed about it.

It is strange that we should have met in the same place.


It can easily be seen that most of the forms used to express hypothetical actions are homonymous with the indicative mood forms, either with tense forms or with free combinations of modal verbs with the infinitive. Hence most forms are recognizable as subjunctive only under certain conditions:


1) when they are used in certain sentence or clause patterns. We shall regard such cases as structurally determined use of the subjunctive mood;


2) when their use is determined by the lexical meaning of the verb or conjunction (see below examples with the verb wish and the conjunction lest).


3) in some set expressions (formulaic utterances) which have to be learned as wholes and in which no element of the structure can be omitted or replaced. We shall regard these cases as the traditional use of the forms.


The first two conditions very often overlap.


The subjunctive mood and the tense category


§ 80. The category of tense in the subjunctive mood is different from that in the indicative mood: unlike the indicative mood system in which there are three distinct time-spheres (past, present, future), time-reference in the subjunctive mood is closely connected with the idea of unreality and is based on the following opposition in meaning:


Imagined, but still possible (referring to the present or future indiscriminately) imagined, no longer possible (referring to the past)


The difference in meaning is expressed by means of the following contrasting forms:


1) The common or continuous non-perfect infinitive as contrasted with the perfect common or continuous infinitive in the analytical forms with should, would, and quasi-subjunctive forms with may (might).


Referring to the Present or Future I fear lest he should escape. He would phone you. I suppose he should be working in the library. Referring to the Past I fear lest he should have escaped. He would have phoned you. I suppose he should have been working in the library.


2) The forms of the non-factual past indefinite and past continuous contrast with the forms of the non-factual past perfect and past perfect continuous in time reference:


Referring to the Present or Future If I knew. I wish I were warned when the time-table is changed. Referring to the Past If I had known. I wish I had been warned.


In case these forms are used in subordinate clauses (as is usually the case) their time-reference is always relative. The non-factual past indefinite and past continuous indicate that the hypothetical action is regarded as simultaneous with the action expressed in the principal clause; the non-factual past perfect and past perfect continuous indicate actions prior to the action expressed in the principal clause.


We did things and talked to the people as if we were walking in our sleep.

His face was haggard as if he had been working the whole night.


The opposition of the non-perfect continuous infinitive and the perfect continuous infinitive is less distinct, as these forms are not so common: an imaginary action is usually presented as devoid of any aspective characteristics.

The old synthetic forms (he be, he come, he were) have no correspond­ing oppositions in time-reference.


Structurally determined use of subjunctive mood forms

§ 81. In Modern English the choice of the subjunctive mood form is determined by the structure of the sentence or clause even more than by the attitude of the speaker or writer to what is said or written. There exist strict rules of the use of the forms in different patterns of sentences and clauses.


The subjunctive mood in subject clauses


§ 82. 1. The use of the subjunctive mood forms in subject clauses in complex sentences of the type It is necessary that you should come.

Subject clauses follow the principal clause, which is either formal or has no subject (exclamatory). The predicate of the principal clause expresses some kind of modality, estimate, or some motive for performing the action denoted by the predicate in the subordinate clause. This close connection between the two predicates accounts for the nature of the subordinate clause, which completes, or rather gives meaning to general situation described in the principal clause.

Should + infinitive or present subjunctive is generally used in this pattern in the subject clause.


It is (was) necessary It is (was) important It is (was) only right It is (was) curious It is (was) funny It is (was) good (better, best) It is (was) cruel It is (was) shameful It is (was) a happy coincidence It is (was) considered strange It is (was) recomended It becomes (became) a custom It seems (seemed) to me prophetic How wonderful What a shame How strange etc.   that he should say so. (that he say so).


It is sad that you should have heard of it on the day of your wedding.

It is a happy coincidence that we should meet here.

It shocked him that he should have been so blind.

It was suggested that somebody should inform the police.

It was more important that he should care for her enough.


In American English the present subjunctive is predominant in this sentence pattern:


It is sad that you be here.


In exclamatory complex sentences:


How wonderful that she should have such a feeling for you!

What a scandal that Palmer and Antonia should go to the opera together!


If the principal clause expresses possibility (it is probable, possible, likely) may (might) + non-perfect infinitive is used, because the action is referred to the future (Возможно, что...; похоже, что...; видимо...)


It is likely the weather may change.

It is possible the key may be lost.


In negative and interrogative sentences, however, should + infinitive is used:


It is not possible that he should have guessed it. Is it possible that he should refuse to come? Невероятно, чтобы... Возможно ли, чтобы...



If in sentences introduced by it the reference is made to an existing fact or state of things, the indicative mood may be used in the subordinate clause.


It is strange that he behaves like that.

Is it possible that he has taken the key?


2. After the principal clause expressing time - it is time, it is high time -the past subjunctive or non-factual forms are used.


It is time you went to bed.

It is high time he were more serious.

It was hight time he had come to a decision.


The subjunctive mood in object clauses


§ 83. The choice of the subjunctive mood form in object clauses depends on the meaning of the verb standing before the object clause.


1. In object clauses after verbs expressing order (to order, to command, to give orders, to give instructions, to demand, to urge, to insist, to require), request (to request, to appeal, to beg), suggestion (to suggest, to recommend, to propose, to move, to advise) either should + infinitive or the present subjunctive is used, the first form being more common than the second.


We urged that in future these relations should be more friendly.

Mr. Nupkins commanded that the lady should be shown in.


In American English the present subjunctive in this sentence pattern is predominant.


People don’t demand that a thing be reasonable if their emotions are touched.

I suggested that she give up driving, but she looked too miserable.


The same form is used after the predicative adjectives sorry, glad, pleased, vexed, eager, anxious, determined, etc., if the action is regarded as an imagined one.


I am sorry she should take such needless trouble.

His brother’s suggestion was absurd. He was vexed his relatives should interfere into his private matters.


2. In object clauses after the verb wish and phrases expressing the same idea I had better, I would rather, or the contracted form I’d rather -different forms may be used, depending on the time-reference of the action in the object clause. If the action refers to the present or future, or is simultaneous with the action expressed in the principal clause, the non-factual past indefinite, past continuous, or past subjunctive is used. After I’d rather the present subjunctive is also possible.


I wish I knew something of veterinary medicine. There’s a feeling of helplessness with a sick animal.

I wish you came here more often. I hardly ever see you.

I would rather you went now.

I’d rather you didn’t help me, actually.




To express a realizable wish an infinitive, not a clause is generally used:


I want him to come.

I should like to discuss things in detail.

He wished it to be true.


If the action refers to the past or is prior to the moment it is desired the non-factual past perfect or past perfect continuous is used, no matter in what tense the verb in the principal clause is. Thus in both the sentences I wish I hadn’t come and I wished I hadn’t come the non-factual past perfect denotes a prior imaginary action, contradicting reality.


We wished we hadn’t left everything to the last minute.

I wish I had been taught music in my childhood.


If the desired action refers to the future the following subjunctive forms may be used:


would + infinitive (only when the subject of the subordinate clause and that of the principal clause do not denote the same thing or person). It denotes a kind of request.

could + infinitive

may (might) + infinitive


The form would + infinitive is used when the fulfilment of the wish depends on the will of the person denoted by the subject of the subordinate clause. If the fulfilment of the wish depends more on the circumstances, the quasi-subjunctive form may (might) + infinitive is preferable, to show that the realization of the action is very unlikely.


I wish you would treat me better.

I wish I could help you.

I wish he might have helped me.


When rendering wish-clauses into Russian it is possible to use a clause with the opposite meaning, introduced by the impersonal «жаль», «как жаль», «какая жалость» or by the finite form of the verb «сожалеть».


I wish I knew it. I wish I didn’t know it! I wish I had known about it! - Жаль, что я этого не знаю. - Какая жалость, что я это знаю! - Жаль, что я не знал об этом!


3. In object clauses after verbs expressing fear, apprehension, worry (to fear, to be afraid, to be terrified, to be anxious, to worry, to be fearful, to be troubled, to be in terror, to tremble, to dread, etc.) two forms are used, depending on the conjunction introducing the clause:


a) after the conjunction that or if the clause is joined asyndetically, the quasi-subjunctive may/might + infinitive is used. The choice of either may or might depends on the tense of the verb in the main clause.


They trembled (that) they might be discovered. I fear (that) he may forget about it. Они дрожали, что их могут обнаружить. Боюсь, как бы он не забыл об этом.


b) after the conjunction lest the form should + infinitive is used.


The passengers were terrified lest the ship should catch fire. Пассажиров охватил ужас, как бы корабль не загорелся.


The indicative forms are also possible in clauses of this type if the action is regarded as a real one:


She was afraid that he had changed his mind.


4. In object clauses after verbs and phrases expressing doubt (to doubt, to disbelieve, to have doubts, to greet with scepticism, etc.) and after some other verbs in the negative form the past subjunctive may be used. The subordinate clause is introduced by if or whether.


We had doubts if it were possible to cross the river at this time of the year.

I doubted she had even been there.


5. In object clauses referring to the formal it + objective predicative, expressing opinion of some situation, the choice of the form depends on the general meaning of the principal clause:


We found it strange that he should speak so calmly after the events (the principal clause expresses the

idea of disbelief, hence the form should speak is used).

We regard it as highly probable that he may return soon (the principal clause expresses the idea of

probability, hence the form may return is used).


The subjunctive mood in appositive and predicative clauses


§ 84. The choice of the form in these clauses is determined by the lexical meaning of the words these clauses follow or refer to.


The order that we should come surprised me. (appositive clause)

The order was that we should come. (predicative clause)

His suggestion that we stop and have a look round the castle was rather sudden. (appositive clause)

His suggestion was that we stop and have a look round the castle. (predicative clause)


1. The forms should + infinitive or the present subjunctive are used after nouns expressing wish, advice, desire, proposal, doubt, hesitation, fear, apprehension, etc. After the last two nouns the conjunction lest is used.


Mary’s wish was that we should stay at her place as long as possible. (predicative clause)

Your advice that he wait till next week is reasonable. (appositive clause)

Our fear lest he should give away our secret was great. (appositive clause)

Our fear was lest we should get lost in the forest. (predicative clause)


2. In predicative clauses joined by the link verbs to be, to seem, to look, to feel, to taste, to smell, etc. the past subjunctive or non-factual tense forms are used. In this case the clause has a comparative meaning and is accordingly introduced by the comparative conjunctions as if, as though. If the action in the subordinate clause is simultaneous with the action in the principal clause the past subjunctive or non-factual past in­definite is used. If the action is prior to that in the principal clause, the non-factual past perfect is used.


He looked as if he were ill (his being ill is simultaneous with the time when his looks are commented upon).

He looked as if he had been ill (his being ill was prior to the time his looks are commented upon).

The house looked as if it had been deserted for years.

I felt as though I were talking to a child.

It was as if I were being attacked by an invisible enemy.




There is a tendency in informal style to use the indicative forms instead of the subjunctive ones, especially if one is confident of the exactitude of the comparison.


Ingrid looks as if she has a bath every morning.

You sound as if you’ve got the whole world on your shoulders.


The subjunctive mood in complex sentences with adverbial clauses of condition


§ 85. Complex sentences may include conditional clauses expressing real condition and unreal condition. In the first case the indicative mood is used, in the second the subjunctive. Both conditions may refer to the past, present or future.

In sentences with real condition any form of the indicative may be used.


If she heard it, she gave no sign.

Why did he send us matches, If he knew there was no gas?

If I have offended you, I am very sorry.

You may go away if it bothers you.

Now it was serious. If I had laughed about it before, I wasn’t laughing now.

If he was lying, he was a good actor.


Since the majority of conditional clauses are introduced by if they are often called if-clauses. Other conjunctions used to introduce conditional clauses are unless, in case, supposing (that), suppose (that), providing (that), provided (that), on condition (that). Each of them expresses a conditional relation with a certain shade of meaning, and their use is restricted either for semantic or stylistic reasons. Thus unless has a negative meaning, although it is not identical with if not. Clauses introduced by unless indicate the only condition which may prevent the realization of the action in the main clause. Unless can be rendered in Russian by 'если только не'.


He is ruined unless he can get a million to pay off his debts.


The Russian conjunction with negation «если не» cannot be rendered by unless if the negation refers only to the part of the compound predicate. In this case if not should be used.


Оденься теплее, если не хочешь заболеть.

Put on a warm coat, if you don’t want to catch cold.


The conjunction in case has a specific shade of meaning, combining condition and purpose and may be translated into Russian as ‘на тот случай если'.


Take an umbrella in case if rains.


The conjunctions suppose (that) and supposing (that) retain their original meaning of supposition. The conjunctions provided (that) and providing (that) imply that the supposed condition is favourable or desirable.


Suppose you get lost in the city, what will you do?

Providing (that) there is no opposition we will hold the meeting here.


These conjunctions may also introduce clauses of unreal condition.

In complex sentences containing an unreal condition the subjunctive mood is used in both the conditional clause and in the principal clause, because the action expressed in the principal clause depends on the unreal condition and cannot be realized either. The choice of forms depends on the time-reference of the actions.


1. If the unreal actions in both the if-clause and the main clause refer to the present or future the non-factual past indefinite, or past continuous, or the past subjunctive is used in the subordinate clause and should/would + non-perfect common or continuous infinitive in the main clause.


If I were a young man now, you wouldn’t be looking for a porter.

You wouldn’t be talking that way unless you were hurt.

I shouldn’t speak to you unless I were determined.


2. If both actions refer to the past and contradict reality the non-factual past perfect or past perfect continuous is used in the if-clause and should/would + perfect or perfect continuous infinitive in the main clause.


If he had not insisted upon her going there, nothing would ever have happened.

Unless he had been grinning happily at us, I should have sworn he was mortally wounded.


Clauses of unreal condition with the verb in the non-factual past perfect, past perfect continuous, past subjunctive (also should + infinitive and could + infinitive, see below) may be introduced asyndetically. In this case inversion serves as a means of subordination.


Had the world been watching, it would have been startled.

Were you in my place you would behave in the same way.


§ 86. The actions in the main and subordinate clauses may have different time-reference, if the sense of the clauses requires it. Sentences of this kind are said to have split condition. The unreal condition may refer to the past and the consequence - to the present or future.


If we hadn’t been such fools we should all still be together.

How much better I should write now if in my youth I had had the advantage of sensible advice!

I shouldn’t be bothering you like this if they hadn’t told me downtown that he was coming up this way.


Split condition is possible for sentences with real condition as well:


If you saw him yesterday you know all the news.

If you live in this part of the city you knew of the accident yesterday.


The condition may refer to no particular time, and the consequence may refer to the past.


She wouldn’t have told me her story if she disliked me.

John wouldn’t have lost the key unless he were so absent-minded.


§ 87. There are three more types of conditional clauses with reference to the future.


1. In the first type should + infinitive for all the persons is used in the conditional clause and the future indefinite indicative or the imperative mood in the principal clause.


If you should meet him, give him my best regards.

If you should find another way out, will you inform me?


Conditional clauses of this type are sometimes joined to the main clause asyndetically, by means of inversion.


Should he ask for references, tell him to apply to me.

Should anything change, you will return home.


In these sentences the action in the conditional clause is presented as possible, but very unlikely. Such clauses are called clauses of problematic condition. They may be rendered in Russian as «случись так, что... », «если случайно...», «если так случится, что...», «вдруг что-нибудь», etc.


2. In the second type would + infinitive for all the persons in the singular and plural is used in the conditional clause and should/would + infinitive or the indicative mood in the main clause. Would retains its original meaning of willingness or consent (если бы вы согласились, изъявили желание, захотели бы).


If you would only come to our place, we’ll be very glad (we should be very glad).


3. In the third type the past subjunctive of the modal verb to be + (to) infinitive is used in the conditional clause and should/would + infinitive or the imperative mood in the principal clause. Both actions have future or present time-reference.


If you were to undertake it, everything would be different (if by chance you undertook it).

If I were to tell you everything, you would be amazed. - Если бы мне пришлось рассказать вам все, вы

бы удивились.


The form were + to implies greater remoteness and improbability of the action, but does not imply a rejection of it.


Sentences and clauses of implied condition


§ 88. An implied condition is not openly stated in a clause, but is suggested either by an adverbial part of the sentence, or else by the context -from the preceding or following sentence, or coordinated clause.


1. The form should/would + infinitive is used in simple sentences with an adverbial modifier of condition introduced by but for, except for (если бы не...) which imply an unreal condition with an opposite meaning:


But for luck he would be still living alone. - Если бы не удача, он бы все еще жил в одиночестве.


The implication is: if it had not been for luck, he would be still living alone. (In fact he was lucky and he is not living alone.)


These people would long ago have been forgotten, but for the artist’s genius.

That’s all I can remember. I wouldn’t have remembered anything at all but for you.

Except for the sound of his breathing, I wouldn’t have known he was there.


2. As stated above a condition may be implied by the preceding or following sentence or coordinated clause:


- What would you do if you had money?

- Oh, I should do many things!


This was the sort of thing he would have liked to explain to someone, only no one wanted to hear.

(If anyone had wanted to hear, he would have explained this sort of thing to them.)


They had no desire to spread scandal. Otherwise they would have demanded their due.

(Had they had the desire to spread scandal, they would have demanded their due.)


I would have gone too, but I was tied up to Joseph.

(If I had not been tied up to Joseph, I would have gone too.)


On the whole the non-factual use of tenses is rather rare in simple sentences, although they do occasionally occur.


As a child I’d given anything for that - В детстве я бы все отдал за это.


Modal verbs or phrases in conditional clauses


§ 89. The modal verbs can, will, may/might are freely used in the non-factual past indefinite to express unreality in conditional and principal clauses. Like the mood auxiliaries should, would they may be combined with different infinitives:


a) in main clauses  
    If I had time I could go there I would go there I might go there I should go there
    b) in subordinate clauses  
  If I could translate this article If he might translate this article If I would translate this article (if I consented to do it) If I translated this article     it would be nice.  


There may be a modal phrase in both clauses of the sentence, or in one clause only.


If you would be frank with me I might perhaps be of more help.

... and had he so desired he might have been persona grata with the diplomatic set.

If she could have been compressed to about three quarters of her actual width, she would have been very


Anselmo grinned in the darkness. An hour ago he could not have imagined that he would ever smile


I would have kept on going, if I hadn’t had to leave Paris.


The subjunctive mood in adverbial clauses of comparison


§ 90. Several forms of subjunctive are used in clauses of comparison depending on the time-reference.


1. If the action in the comparative clause is simultaneous with that in the main clause, the non-factual past indefinite or past subjunctive is used.


2. If the action in the comparative clause is prior to that in the main clause, the non-factual past perfect is used.


The usual conjunctions introducing comparative clauses are as if and as though.


His eyes wandered as if he were at a loss.

He paid no attention to us, as though we did not exist.

Miss Handforth was holding a tea-pot as if it were a hand grenade.

And so we faced each other after three years of letter-writing as if we had been having a beer every

afternoon for years.


3. If the action in the subordinate clause is presented as following the action in the main clause would + infinitive is used.


He was whistling gaily as if his heart would break for joy.


The subjunctive mood in adverbial clauses of purpose


§ 91. In clauses of purpose the form used depends on the conjunction introducing the clause.


1. After the conjunctions that, so that, in order that, so the quasi-subjunctive forms may (might) + infinitive or can (could) + infinitive are used. Only might and could are used if the action in the subordinate clause, though following the action in the main clause, refers to the past. But when the action refers to the present or future, both forms of each verb are possible (may or might, can or could).


I tell you this so that you may understand the situation.

She left the lamp on the window-sill, so that he might see it from afar.

She gave him the book that he might have something to read on the journey.


2. After the negative conjunction lest (чтобы не) should + infinitive is generally used.


The girl whispered these words lest somebody should overhear her.

He was afraid to look behind lest he should see something there which ought not to be there.


The subjunctive mood in adverbial clauses of concession


§ 92. Concessive clauses may either be joined to the main clause asyndetically, or else be introduced by a connective (however, whoever, whatever, whenever), a conjunction (though, although, even if, even though); also by a phrase, such as no matter how, no matter when.

If the action refers to the present or future the quasi-subjunctive form may + infinitive or present subjunctive is used in the subordinate clause. If the action refers to the past may + perfect infinitive or perfect continuous infinitive, or might + infinitive is used. Forms with should + infinitive, would + infinitive, and non-factual tense forms are also possible, though less typical.


He can be right, no matter whether his arguments be convincing or not.

Tired as he may be he will always help me.

Though he might have been suspicious he gave no sign.

No matter how he might try he couldn’t do it.

Much as I would like to help, I didn’t dare to interfere.


When a concessive clause is joined asyndetically, there is usually inversion. The front position is occupied by the part, that states the circumstance despite which the action in the main clause is carried out. Thus it lends a concessive meaning to the clause. In the following sentences the concessive meaning is focused on the part of the predicate:


Come what may, we shall remain here. Cost what it may, I’ll give you the sum you ask. Tired as he might be, he continued his way. - Чтобы ни случилось... - Сколько бы это ни стоило... - Как бы он ни устал...


The focus of the concessive meaning may fall on the nominal or adverbial part of the clause.


Whoever he may be, he has no right to be rude. Whatever you may say, our decision remains unchanged. Whichever of the two roads we may take, the distance is great.   Wherever we might go, we found the same gloomy sight. Whenever I may ask him a question, he always has a ready answer. Не will not convince us however hard he should try. - Кто бы он ни был... - Чтобы ты ни говорил... - По какой бы из двух дорог мы ни пошли... - Куда бы мы ни пошли... - Когда бы я ни задал ему вопрос... -... как бы сильно он ни пытался.


Concessive clauses introduced by even if, even though are built up on the same pattern as conditional clauses and the same subjunctive mood forms are used in the subordinate clause.


Even if it were true, he couldn’t say so.

Even though he had proposed, nothing has changed since that day.


Concessive meaning may be rendered by the indicative mood in the same patterns of clauses, if the fact despite which the action is carried out is a real one.


Cold as it is, we shall go out. (it is really cold)

Tired as he was, he continued his work.

Though he was 36, he looked very old.

It was not meant to offend you, no matter how ironic it sounded.


The subjunctive mood in simple sentences


§ 93. Besides cases when the subjunctive mood forms are used in simple sentences to express an unreal action as a consequence of an implied condition (see § 88), these forms are also used in simple sentences of the following kind:


1. In exclamatory sentences beginning with if only to express a wish. They follow the same pattern as conditional clauses, and would + infinitive, past subjunctive, non-factual tense forms are used.


If only it were true!

If only I knew what to do!

If only I had listened to my parents!

If only it would stop raining!

If only we could have stopped him!


2. In exclamatory sentences to express an emotional attitude of the speaker to real facts (surprise and disbelief). Here should + infinitive is used.


And this should happen just on this day!

That it should be you of all people!


3. In questions expressing astonishment or indignation the analytical form should + infinitive is used:


Why should you and I talk about it?

How should I know?

Why should you suspect me?

Why should you not do it?

The traditional use of the subjunctive mood in formulaic expressions


§ 94. These forms remained as survivals of old usage and they are used as wholes, in which no element of structure can be omitted or replaced.

Most of them have a religious origin and express a wish or a prayer: God bless you! (Bless you! ) God save the king! Heaven forbid! The Devil take him!

In many cases, however, formulaic expressions may be expanded by variable elements (parts of the sentence or clauses), thus making productive patterns in Modern English. They vary in their meaning, although mostly express a wish. Among them are:


1. Forms used in slogans: Long live the Army! Long live patriotism! Long live the fighters for peace! Long live heroes!;


2. Forms used in oaths, curses, and imprecations: Manners be hanged! Confound your ideas! Confound the politics!


Far be it from me to spoil the fan! Far be it from me to conceal the truth! Far be it from me to argue with you! Far be it from me to talk back! - Чтобы я хотел испортить вам настроение! - Чтобы я скрывал правду! - Чтобы я стал спорить! - Чтобы я грубил!


Forms with may + infinitive, unlike modern forms with the same verb, retain the old word order:


May success attend you! May you be happy! May he win!

The subjunctive mood forms with had better, had best, would rather, would sooner are used in sentences denoting wish, admonition, preference, advice. Very often they are used in a contracted form: You’d better go at once. You had best take note of my direction if you wish to make sure of it.

Formulaic expressions with concessive meaning are used in complex sentences as concessive clauses:


Happen what may, Come what will, Come what may, Cost what it may,   we shall not yield.


The formulaic expression as it were (так сказать) is used as parenthesis, emphasizing that the content of the sentence is highly figurative or non-real:


... there is, as it were, a transparent barrier between myself and strong emotion.



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