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Wish + Subjunctive

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Wish + Subjunctive

Postby Enigma » Wed Feb 10, 2010 9:17 pm

Would you say the following sentence is correct:

I wish he did the throw the ball.


Wishing for a present, impossible (hypothetical) situation requires the past subjunctive.

Could you argue that this is not a subjunctive construction (did throw), but rather a variation used frequently, yet incorrectly?

Is it not the same as using the putative should to avoid the somewhat stilted present subjunctive following commands:

I recommend that he should walk home--instead of--I recommend that he walk home.


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Postby saparris » Wed Feb 10, 2010 10:53 pm

I wish he did the throw the ball.


This is not subjunctive, but it should be "I wish he had thrown the ball."

The use of the subjunctive in sentences expressing wishes relates to conditions (I wish I were rich), not actions.
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Postby Enigma » Wed Feb 10, 2010 11:27 pm

This is not subjunctive, but it should be "I wish he had thrown the ball."


If I wanted it to be a wish about the past, yes. But I'm referring to a habitual action, like if we were in a sports team and I wanted him to be the thrower, so to speak.
So in this case, the past tense is correct, isn't it?


The use of the subjunctive in sentences expressing wishes relates to conditions (I wish I were rich), not actions


I need to let this point sink in for a bit and come back, I think.
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Re: Wish + Subjunctive

Postby Slava » Wed Feb 10, 2010 11:32 pm

Enigma wrote:Would you say the following sentence is correct:

I wish he did the throw the ball.
I'll go with it's being just plain wrong.

I wish he had thrown...
I wish he would throw...
I wish he were (was) throwing...
I wish he were the one throwing...

No did. No way.
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Re: Wish + Subjunctive

Postby Enigma » Thu Feb 11, 2010 12:08 am

Slava wrote:
Enigma wrote:Would you say the following sentence is correct:

I wish he did the throw the ball.
I'll go with it's being just plain wrong.

I wish he had thrown...
I wish he would throw...
I wish he were (was) throwing...
I wish he were the one throwing...

No did. No way.


Read this, and see if your opinion changes. Not saying it will. Just thought you may be interested. Alas, it doesn't relate the subject to the subjunctive.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learn ... v301.shtml
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Re: Wish + Subjunctive

Postby Slava » Thu Feb 11, 2010 12:17 am

Enigma wrote:Read this, and see if your opinion changes. Not saying it will. Just thought you may be interested. Alas, it doesn't relate the subject to the subjunctive.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learn ... v301.shtml
I have to admit, I don't see where in this article "did" gets covered in this usage. However, I did twig to the real disconnect we have going here. We're forgetting that English is the common language that keeps our peoples apart. You just sent an American to a Beeb site on grammar. I speak American, they speak British, and never the twain shall meet.
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Postby Enigma » Thu Feb 11, 2010 5:51 am

I don't think there is any difference between AmE and BrE with regard to the verb 'wish.' I could be wrong though.

That article doesn't mention 'did,' possibly suggesting its use is limited to BrE or its not used at all--I don't know.
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Postby saparris » Thu Feb 11, 2010 8:53 am

I wish he did the throw the ball.


I see your point about wishing for a habitual action, and I can see "I wish he did throw the ball" working that way in context.

Coach 1: "I wish my John pitch."
Coach 2: "Well, he's a good runner and batter, but he doesn't throw the ball the way a pitcher needs to.
Parent: "I wish he did throw the ball better, but I guess he just doesn't have the arm."

HOWEVER, there are much better ways to get the point across, including "I wish he could throw the ball" or "I wish he were a better pitcher.

In context, and in conversation, your sentence might deliver its intended message, but on its own, it sounds awkward and doesn't express what you want it to.
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Postby Enigma » Thu Feb 11, 2010 5:35 pm

saparris wrote:
I wish he did the throw the ball.


This is not subjunctive, but it should be "I wish he had thrown the ball."

The use of the subjunctive in sentences expressing wishes relates to conditions (I wish I were rich), not actions.


According to this site, this is untrue: It says for a present tense wish, use the past subjunctive. If it is a past tense wish, use the past perfect subjunctive.

Do you not agree with this site?

http://faculty.washington.edu/jwhelan/D ... ctive.html

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Postby saparris » Thu Feb 11, 2010 5:51 pm

According to this site, this is untrue: It says for a present tense wish, use the past subjunctive. If it is a past tense wish, use the past perfect subjunctive.


I agree with this statement. It works for the following:

I wish he were taller.
I wish he had been taller.

But in your sentence, you would have to say,

I wish he threw the ball (not did throw). [Present]
I wish he had thrown the ball. [Past]

If you said, "I wish he threw the ball better than he does," that would be a present wish using the past subjunctive. But without some semantic clarification, I don't think it suggests that meaning.

(The past wish version would be "I wish he had thrown the ball better than he did.")
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Postby Enigma » Thu Feb 11, 2010 5:59 pm

saparris wrote:
According to this site, this is untrue: It says for a present tense wish, use the past subjunctive. If it is a past tense wish, use the past perfect subjunctive.


I agree with this statement. It works for the following:

I wish he were taller.
I wish he had been taller.

But in your sentence, you would have to say,

I wish he threw the ball (not did throw). [Present]
I wish he had thrown the ball. [Past]

If you said, "I wish he threw the ball better than he does," that would be a present wish using the past subjunctive. But without some semantic clarification, I don't think it suggests that meaning.

(The past wish version would be "I wish he had thrown the ball better than he did.")


Exactly. So back to my question then: the version with 'did' doesn't work, because the past subjunctive is required, yes?
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Postby saparris » Thu Feb 11, 2010 6:08 pm

Exactly. So back to my question then: the version with 'did' doesn't work, because the past subjunctive is required, yes?


Well, yes. I was hoping you wouldn't notice.
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Postby Enigma » Thu Feb 11, 2010 6:24 pm

I'm pretty sure this is how 'wish' works: (the red is past subjunctive, while black is past perfect subjunctive).

I wish I were happy=I wish I was being happy, but I'm not.

I wish I walked home=I wish I was walking, but I am not.



I wish I had been happy=Presently wish I had been happy, but I wasn't.

I wish I had walked home=Presently wish I had walked, but I did not walk.


I wished I were happy=I wished I were happy at the time of wishing, but I wasn't.

I wished I walked home=I wished I walked home at the time of wishing, but I didn't walk.



I wished I had been happy=I wished I had been happy in a time before I wished, but I wasn't happy.

I wished I had walked home=I wished I had walked home in a time before wishing, but I hadn't walked.



Do you agree?
Last edited by Enigma on Thu Feb 11, 2010 6:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby saparris » Thu Feb 11, 2010 6:27 pm

Not completely, but I'll have to get back to you.
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Postby Enigma » Thu Feb 11, 2010 6:32 pm

saparris wrote:Not completely, but I'll have to get back to you.


Looking foward to it.
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