Subjunctive(?): not critical that

Benjamin Barrett gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM
Thu Mar 20 18:56:13 UTC 2008

Thanks to all who responded to the query. The confirmation worked for
the client and I learned a bit more about this mood. BB

On Mar 19, 2008, at 9:31 AM, Laurence Horn wrote:

> At 12:14 PM -0400 3/19/08, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>> At 3/19/2008 08:20 AM, Dennis Preston wrote:
>>> For me the subjunctive (whose disappearance I applaud daily, and not
>>> only in English) sounds better in the passive:
>>> [1] "It's not critical that everything be tied together."
>>> And the indicative passive is not so good at least for one of the
>>> subtle distinctions that we appear to be trying to make here:
>>> [2] "It's not critical that everything is tied together."
>> Doesn't [2] potentially have the opposite sense from [1], and
>> therefore is at least ambiguous?  [1], being subjunctive, means that
>> it is the case that not everything is tied together.
> I dispute that claim.  In my usage (active or passive), (1) is
> compatible with the possibility that everything is (already) tied
> together ("It's not critical that everything be tied together, but it
> would be a good idea--why don't you check and add some tape if you
> need to") and is also compatible with the possibility that everything
> is not (yet) tied together.  It's about what should or, in this case,
> need not be the case, not what is currently the case.

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