a pure grammar question: the subjunctive mood

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changwecanbelievein

Senior Member
Chinese
Hi everyone, at the moment I'm learning the subjunctive mood, which is the most difficult part of the English grammar as might be expected.

This is a pure grammar question not easy to answer. So I hope to find some master hands who work in the grammatical field.

Please excuse me that I'm not able to express my post in acadmic terms. But I think you could understand what I'm asking.

As is known to all, the unreal conditional sentences has three basic forms:
1 to express the contrary of the present fact
2 to express the contrary of the past fact
3 to express the contrary of the future fact

Here I only talk about the first form: to express the contrary of the present fact.

The sentence pattern of the first form:

conditional clause: were or did
main sentence:
should(only used in the first person)/would/could/might + the original form of the verb

Ok, now my question is coming.

In a grammar book I saw an instance that has been making me confused until now.

Example: If human being were not killing one another, we could be living a happier life.

I know such as "If human being didn't kill one another, we should/would/could/might live a happier life." is grammatically correct. But please see my example given above. That example doesn't accord with the sentence pattern of the first form. It has this form which I cann't find in five grammar books even!

conditional clause: were + doing
main sentence:
should/would/could/might + be + doing

So I called it "a new form to express the contrary of the present fact“.

Are there any proficients of using the subjunctive mood on this forum? Do you comprehend that new form?

I need your help urgently, and besides, I want to know whether such as "If human being were not killing one another, we could live a happier life." or "If human being didn't kill one another, we could be living a happier life." is grammatically correct.
 
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  • Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    "If human beings were not killing one another, we could live a happier life."

    Type II conditional - simple past of to be in continuous tense in if-clause, conditional (could = would be able to, here) in main clause.


    "If human being didn't kill one another, we could be living a happier life."

    Type II conditional - simple past in if-clause, conditional (could be living = would be able to be living, here) in main clause.

    I think it might be more helpful if you considered the counterfactual as being the negative of a fact rather than the contrary of it, Changwecanbelievein. For the sentence it is out, consider it is not out, rather than it is in. Many propositions don't have very clear opposites.

    Also I think you need to consider the difference between the impossible (if I were you) and the untrue (if I was/were in Paris).
     
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