I was told that relative clauses can’t take the subjunctive mood in English. Is that true?

1 Answer

Based on the discussion in the comments, I think there can be subjunctive mood in a relative clause so long as the entire sentence is in subjunctive.


Let's see if we can take two kinds of grammary-things and put them together and make them work (just like I just made up the word "grammary-things" - it makes sense to me and hopefully to others, despite the fact that the "angry red line of misspelling" is underlining it both times!).

First, what are we trying to put together?

Relative clause - this is a part of a sentence that despite having a noun and verb, can't stand alone. It's a type of dependent clause that functions as an adjective, telling us things like How Many?, Which Kind?, or Which One?

For example, I can write:

#"I'm buying the new computer "color(red)("that my Dad said is the best for me.")#

The red is the dependent clause.


Subjunctive mood - this mood deals with suggestions, wishes, or moods that are contrary to the way things currently are.

For example, I can write:

If I were in your position, I'd choose a different computer.


Ok - can we put the two together? Can we have a descriptive relative clause hold a subjunctive mood? Let's try:

#"I'm buying the new computer "color(red)("that I wish was red.")#

This one is not subjunctive mood - it's indicative mood. Let's try again:

#"I'm thinking of this new computer "color(red)("that were it red I'd buy it.")#

Convoluted... not good English...

I have to agree - subjunctive moods and relative clauses don't mix well.