Grammatical pattern: VERB + (that) + SUBJUNCTIVE CLAUSE

example: The boss DEMANDED that she finish the work by Friday.
  She INSISTED   her husband be seen by a specialist.

In the sentence “The boss demanded that she finish the work by Friday,” the verb is “demanded,” and the subjunctive clause is “she finish the work by Friday.”  The subjunctive clause is introduced by the word “that,” which English speakers often choose to omit.  If the clause “she finish the work by Friday” sounds strange, it is because the verb “finish” is in its subjunctive form rather than the indicative form that we are more used to hearing.  Present subjunctive forms look exactly like bare infinitives, whereas the verb in the more typical indicative form would have the “-es” ending (i.e., “she finishes”).  However, after the word “demand,” a clause introduced by “that” must use a verb in the subjunctive form, as must the other verbs that follow this pattern.  Please see the terms SUBJUNCTIVE and INDICATIVE in the Grammatical Patterns Glossary for further information.

A relatively small set of verbs in English require that they be followed by subjunctive clauses if they can be followed by a “THAT-clause” at all.  (Note the use of the subjunctive “be” after the verb “require” in the preceding sentence!) These types of clauses using subjunctive forms are found most often in somewhat formal writing or speaking.  Some verbs that use the subjunctive after them in this way can also be used in alternative patterns.  For example, the verb “advise” can be used with a subjunctive clause, as in “They advised that he take a cautious attitude.”  It can also be used with a following object plus infinitive as in “They advised him to take a cautious attitude.”  When there is a choice, most speakers prefer the pattern without the subjunctive in ordinary conversation.


Verbs that follow the pattern  [VERB  +  (that)  +  SUBJUNCTIVE CLAUSE]

advise, arrange, ask, command, demand, desire, insist, intend, move, order, propose, recommend, request, require, suggest, urge


Some verbs that follow the subjunctive pattern allow the word “should” plus the bare infinitive to be used in the following clause instead of the verb in the subjunctive. For example, instead of saying “He suggested that I talk to a lawyer,” one may say “He suggested that I should talk to a lawyer.”  Verbs that allow “should” have a somewhat tentative feeling about them (e.g., “suggest,” “recommend”) as opposed to the more commanding meaning of verbs like “demand,” “command,” and “insist.”


Additional examples of the pattern [VERB +  (that)  +  SUBJUNCTIVE CLAUSE]

I propose that the committee consider this matter at the next meeting.

The principal requested that the boy’s father also be present at the meeting.

The lawyer recommended that she plead guilty.

He insisted that he pay for the entire meal.

The university requires that each incoming student have a physical exam.

She desires that the child be brought to her immediately.




All grammatical patterns