Subjunctive(?): not critical that

Mark Mandel thnidu at GMAIL.COM
Sun Mar 23 19:51:50 UTC 2008

On Sun, Mar 23, 2008 at 11:09 AM, JAMES A. LANDAU  <JJJRLandau at>

> Aside to Laurence Horn:  You give the examples
>    She insists that he not take his medicine
>    She insists that he does not take his medicine.
> Indeed the difference between the two is in the aspect of the verb.  A
> prescriptivist, however, would render the latter as:
>    She insists that he do not take his medicine.

I beg to differ. Apart from your use of the term "aspect", which Larry has
already commented on, ISTM that you are reading his second example in a
different way than he and I do, or else describing a "prescriptivist's"
construction in a way that is strange to me. Semantics of the examples, per
my understanding (post-editing: plus OED defs of the two senses involved):

1. "She insists that he not take his medicine" reports an imperative.
(OED def. 4: To make a demand with persistent urgency; to take a persistent
or peremptory stand in regard to a stipulation, claim, demand, proposal,
etc. ... b: with *that* and clause.)
 * She is ordering or demanding or requiring: "Joe, don't take that
medicine!", or "Thelma, don't give Joe that medicine."

2. "She insists that he does not take his medicine" reports an emphasized
(OED def. 3b: with clause: To maintain persistently or positively *that* a
thing is so.)
 * She is making an assertion, possibly in reply to someone else's
contradiction of her previous assertion: "No, Joe is NOT taking his
medicine. Didn't you hear me the first time, or are you calling me a liar?"

Mark Mandel

The American Dialect Society -

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