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Negative Subjunctive in BE: I suggest people not be afraid to make mistakes

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Macunaíma, May 18, 2007.

  1. Macunaíma

    Macunaíma Senior Member

    Um ninho de mafagalfinhos
    português, Brasil
    I often read in this forum that the subjunctive mood after verbs like suggest, recommend and demand, for example, are less common in Britain than in the US, although some British people have said it doesn't sound so strange to them if they hear the subjunctive in those cases, but what about the negative subjunctive? Would a sentence like this be too odd in the UK: "I suggest you not be embarrassed to approach people and introduce yourself to them"? Or this: "I suggest people not be afraid to make mistakes and try out their language skills whenever they have a chance". If these sentences are not OK, please make your suggestions. I am asking this question because I am not used to seeing the negative subjunctive used and I feel a little aprehensive to use it myself.

    Thanks for your clarifications.
     
  2. AWordLover

    AWordLover Senior Member

    Atlanta, Georgia USA
    USA English
    Hi,

    I don't see any alternative to using it in the sentences you have given. They sounds perfectly natural to me.
     
  3. Macunaíma

    Macunaíma Senior Member

    Um ninho de mafagalfinhos
    português, Brasil
    Thanks WordLover. I just wanted confirmation.

    In BrE it's common to see constructions with should replacing the subjunctive in those sentences ( I suggest you should be...) and I thought there might be a negative version of that.

    Thank you.
     
  4. deddish Senior Member

    Ontario, Canada
    English .ca
    I don't like the sound of your first example sentence- the suggest one- but that might be some other part of the sentence. The second one sounds fine.
     
  5. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    Hi Macunaima,

    Here's a BE response:

    "I suggest you not be embarrassed to approach people and introduce yourself to them"

    sounds very strange to me. I don't know of anyone who would say it. We'd find a way round as you posit. Something like: I suggest you try not to be embarrassed.
    I'd say I suggest he tries not to be embarrassed, so I'd not use the subjunctive in the positive form either.


    "I suggest people not be afraid to make mistakes and try out their language skills whenever they have a chance". If

    Again, we'd say: I suggest people try not to be afraid...
     
  6. petereid

    petereid Senior Member

    selby yorkshire
    english
    "I suggest people not be afraid to make mistakes and try out their language skills whenever they have a chanc
    "Suggest" is the wrong verb here. You can't "suggest people.."
    Try:- "I advise people not to be afraid to make mistakes, and to try out their language skills ......."
     
  7. liliput

    liliput Senior Member

    Spain
    U.K. English
    Your sentences may be grammatically correct but they're a bit long-winded. More usually people will simply say:
    "You shouldn't be embarrassed to approach people and introduce yourself to them"?
    "People shouldn't be afraid to make mistakes and try out their language skills whenever they have a chance".
    There's really no need to say "I suggest" when you're making a suggestion.
    As for recommend;
    "I recommend you go"
    "I recommend you don't go"
    "I don't recommend you go"
    "I don't recommend your going"
     
  8. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    "I suggest you not be embarrassed to approach people and introduce yourself to them"

    I've been running this around all afternoon. To my ear it's partly the word order that makes it bizarre. I can just hear someone saying:
    "I suggest you be not embarrassed to approach people and introduce yourself to them"

    Oddly enough the 3rd person seems more acceptable too:
    I suggest she be not discouraged from going.

    though
    I suggest he not go
    doesn't work at all.

    interestingly one might just say:
    I recommend that he not go.
     
  9. liliput

    liliput Senior Member

    Spain
    U.K. English
    Really? The forms you suggest look completely wrong to me.
    I much prefer;
    I suggest you not be embarrassed to approach people and introduce yourself to them"
    to;
    "I suggest you be not embarrassed to approach people and introduce yourself to them" and "I suggest she be not discouraged from going.
    although I can't picture myself using any of them. Does anyone really speak this way anyway?
     
  10. AWordLover

    AWordLover Senior Member

    Atlanta, Georgia USA
    USA English
    Hi,

    I've been considering Thomas's point about "I suggest people...", being an unfortunate phrasing.

    I've convinced myself that I hear, "I suggest that people...".
    I may have misread the sentence originally. I'm now trying to decide if the "that" is elided or unnecessary.
     
  11. okey-dokey Senior Member

    Italy
    English / UK, London
    Suggest does not take the subjunctive. You need a verb such as demand.
     
  12. AWordLover

    AWordLover Senior Member

    Atlanta, Georgia USA
    USA English
    Hi,

    Some would disagree.
    From the EnglishClub we have

    I've seen other references, but this was handy.
     
  13. Macunaíma

    Macunaíma Senior Member

    Um ninho de mafagalfinhos
    português, Brasil
    Thank you all for taking the time to reply

    So you suggest I try to avoid the subjunctive? :)

    Thomas suggested Macunaíma avoid (subj.)/ tries (ind.) to avoid/ should (a typical BrE construction) avoid using the subjunctive at all costs because it may sound wrong.

    I agree with you, but there are situations when it's more appropriate to be less outright. I pictured someone giving an interview when I made those sentences. In most other situations, of course, your sentences are the most sensible choice.

    That was elided in the sentences I gave, but they are in fact necessary there.

    I'll try to "absorb" your suggestions and hope that nothing too strange comes out when I actually need to say something like that.

    Just a last question, if that's not too much: "I suggest (that) people don't be afraid" or "I suggest (that) he doesn't hesitate". Are these OK? Yes or not?
     
  14. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    I take the point about not sounding abrupt, but you risk sounding a touch ridiculous with some subjunctives, and natives often prefer to find ways round them, as you suggest.
     
  15. Macunaíma

    Macunaíma Senior Member

    Um ninho de mafagalfinhos
    português, Brasil
    Sorry, Thomas, I didn't imply you were abrupt --you were indeed very kind to reply-- I was just trying to sum up you suggestions and saw myself using the subjunctive again.

    That's good advice, trying to find ways around the subjunctive in order not to sound "literary". I have this thing about the subjunctive because in Portuguese we have to use it in every other clause and it doesn't sound formal or literary, it's just part of the structure of the language, and when I am not sure how to phrase a thought I tend to transfer this pattern into English and end up making really odd sentences.

    Macunaíma
     
  16. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    I didn't express myself clearly. You had said:

    I agree with you, but there are situations when it's more appropriate to be less outright.

    When I said abrupt I was referring to your wish not to sound outright. I should have kept your excellent adjective. I wasn't taking the slightest umbrage, and I'm sorry if I gave that impression.

    This was an interesting thread, Macunaima. Your command of English is wonderful.
     
  17. tomandjerryfan

    tomandjerryfan Senior Member

    Ontario
    English (Canada)
    I believe the correct answers would be:

    I suggest (that) people not be afraid.
    or:
    I suggest (that) he not hesitate.

    You can't contract subjunctives. The first sentence sounds fine to me, but the second sounds a bit awkward because we tend to avoid the subjunctive.
     
  18. Dmitry_86

    Dmitry_86 Senior Member

    Hello!!!

    Why do you tend to avoid subjunctives in general and those with "suggest" in particular?

    Thanks!!!
     
  19. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    I don't think it's a case of active avoidance like "Hmmm, this cries out for a subjunctive, but I think I'll avoid it". It's more like an "instinctive" reaction or even unfamiliarity or dislike of the "strange" constructions that the subjunctive can bring.

    Why did we English speakers (except those dialects who actually do still use them) stop using thee and thou? Why is the subjunctive form frequently different in AmE and BrE? Questions of why language evolves are often complex:D
     
  20. Matching Mole

    Matching Mole Senior Member

    England, English
    I don't avoid the subjunctive entirely, but I think care is required in its use as it can sound brusque, haughty and even rude--and always formal--especially in its unadorned form (i.e. without polite "softeners" that make it sound less direct, such as "I would" or "May I"). I think this is partly because it is a mood used for giving orders as well as suggestions and recommendations. I had a look through the Google results for "I suggest" and found very little that sounded acceptable to me, except in questions about how or what to suggest. I think a`statement beginning with "I suggest" is very often a rebuke, or a veiled threat or comman, and even when the advice is helpful it still has a bossy sound to it.

    As for the topic phrases, I think they are quite artificial. As liliput points out, they have no reason to begin with "I suggest" at all, and therefore don't require the subjunctive. If I was to give this advice I would probably use "should", e.g.:
    "You should not be embarrassed to approach people and introduce yourself to them."
    "People should not be afraid to make mistakes and [should] try out their language skills whenever they have a chance."
     

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