Friday, November 7, 2008

Only in a Cambridge student paper ...

Headline on the US election: "Yes we could", thus identifying the correct use of the conditional subjunctive.


Tamerlane said...

I don't think that's the conditional subjective. It's just the past simple tense of can (which is the same form as the conditional subjunctive).

I think it's referring back to the past (Yes we could and we did elect Barack Obama) not the future conditional (Yes, at some time in the future, we could)

Doug said...

Fair point. I took the context to be -

Question: "can we do X?" (the typical Obama line in speeches).

Response (from an overly grammar-conscious crowd): "Yes we could [if we won]!"

If that was the intended context, I think it would be conditional subjunctive - but your explanation is simpler, and thus more likely to be right.

Tamerlane said...

I'm a Cambridge student by the way, which I suppose confirms the sentiment of the post's title!

I like the blog, keep it up.

Sal said...

In any case, why would Obama want to use the subjunctive? American presidential candidates are allergic to any linguistic uncertainty concerning whether or not they will win a given election.

I am currently writing a document of recommendations. It is giving me a ridiculous amount of pleasure to use the phrase 'it is recommended that x be done' several times a page. Sad, Lamb, sad.