A song about the subjunctive and second conditionals doesn't sound too fun, but actually it's a great song by Beyoncé, if i were a boy.
Why do we say if i were a boy and not if i was a boy?
This is an example of the subjunctive. The subjunctive is used for unreal situations, and as they are unreal, there is no time. We don't use the subjunctive a lot in English (luckily for anyone learning English) and if I were is probably the most common.
If I were is a past subjunctive. Usually you don't notice the past subjunctive as it is the same as the past simple - if I won the lottery, won is actually a subjunctive here. You notice the verb be, because the subjunctive of be is were for every person.
Anyway, here's Beyoncé and a gap-fill exercise to go with the song. And if you want to know more about the present subjunctive, keep reading below the video.
Advanced grammar: the present subjunctive.
The present subjunctive is rare in conversation. It's quite formal and you'll see it more in writing.
The present subjunctive is the infinitive without to. You can often find it after verbs such as insist, suggest, recommend:
I insisted he try some of the chocolate cake.
I suggest you listen to this song.
The doctor recommended he not play sport for a month.
We also use it after certain adjectives like vital, essential, important.
It's essential that everyone arrive on time for the exam.
It's important that you be ready when the lawyer arrives.
Some common phrases are also examples of the subjunctive:
Rest in peace.
The good news - you don't really need to know the present subjunctive. Most English-speaking people don't even use it correctly. But next time you read a strange sentence like it's essential that the car be waiting at the airport, you'll know it's not a mistake!
My blog has changed! If you're looking for my English-practice exercises, they're all still here, just look in the archives.
Catherine: blogging about learning, language, culture, France and more...