is or are

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Subjunctive forms.

Post by LarryLatham » Sun Feb 02, 2003 4:33 pm Michael Swan's book"Practical English Usage", there are five sections on the use of the subjunctive.
You're right about Swan, John, and I respect Swan (although I admit to not always clearly understanding what he says).

But even so, notice the language he uses in speaking about the subjunctive: "The subjunctive is not very common in modern British English, and is used mostly in formal style. [Emphasis mine]. Ideas of this kind are usually epressed in other ways." I submit that it's also not very common in modern American English.

He also says, in section 3: "The subjunctive form were is often used instead of was after if, as if, and I wish. ...Was is also possible in these cases, and is more common in conversational English."

So Swan, to whom I'll gladly defer, admits the existence of subjunctive form, but seems to suggest that it is on the way out of the language. That's pretty much what both you and Iain said. I stand corrected.

Larry Latham

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Post by Glenski » Mon Feb 10, 2003 1:44 pm

Can't you just break the original sentence down into its most basic parts...

cars are problem.

Nothing fancy here, no matter how weird it may sound to some folks.

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Post by strider » Tue Feb 11, 2003 2:45 pm

Looking at this problem from another point of view, I think this gives us an interesting insight as to how language evolves.

Going back to the original sentence, I would say that is an abridged form of a longer sentence, such as - The fact that too many people have too many cars is a big problem in Japan.

Of couse, we don't need to say all those words because everyone knows what we mean when we say - too many cars is a big problem in Japan.

There are other situations where we say even shorter sentences and everyone knows what we mean. But in these sentences, new words have appeared to explain the idea, for example, 'overpopulation is a big problem in large cities.' Another example that comes to mind is - 'Overfishing is a big problem in the North Sea'

So, who's going to be the one to coin the new word ? :)

How about 'Overdriving is a big problem in Japan'

(You know what I mean...?)

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Post by LarryLatham » Tue Feb 11, 2003 4:37 pm

Great point, Strider! 8)
You remind us not only of the living language we speak (and has ramifications for us to consider when we think about just what we tell our students is "correct"), but also that users of English--and I imagine any other language too--always say just the minimum number of words to get the message across in a given situation. We would think it strange indeed if someone who we know is a native speaker, and who also knows we are native with the language said, in normal conversation, "The fact that too many people have too many cars is a big problem in Japan." Maybe that would fly in an academic presentation, but I'd say it's not very likely in patter between two friends.

Larry Latham

john martin
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over driving

Post by john martin » Wed Feb 12, 2003 12:11 pm

How about "over driving are a problem in japan"?. You are missing the point of the question.

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