EN: it is necessary that + mood

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  • v_jazz

    New Member
    Armenian
    This is the age-old confusion of how to use the French "mode subjonctif" is English!
    "It is necessary that I be there on time"
    "It is necessary that I am there on time"
    "It is necessary that I'll be there on time"
    which one is correct??
    "Il est necessaire que je SOIS la a l'heure" [sorry, I don't know how to use accents on my keyboard]
     

    dakotabrett

    Senior Member
    English (United States)
    Do we say for instance :

    It's necessary that I be there on time or that I will be there on time?
    "It's necessary that I be there on time" is correct but sounds wordy, considering the much more concise "I have to be there on time" exists. No native speaker would say the former sentence seriously.

    "It's necessary that I'll be there on time" sounds wrong to my ears, but maybe not to other anglophones, since these days people seem to avoid the subjunctive whatever way they can.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    This is the age-old confusion of how to use the French "mode subjonctif" is English!
    "It is necessary that I be there on time"
    "It is necessary that I am there on time"
    "It is necessary that I'll be there on time"
    which one is correct??
    "Il est necessaire que je SOIS la a l'heure" [sorry, I don't know how to use accents on my keyboard]
    As another poster said, it might be better to state the meaning intended using other words. On the question of the grammar of the example sentences, however, only "It is necessary that I be there on time" is correct in American English. The British are increasingly using the version with the indicative in the that clause: "It is necessary that I am there on time." Usually, however, they would say, "It is necessary that I should be there on time." The subjunctive is less often encountered in British English than in American English.

    I don't think of "should be" as a subjunctive, but as a quasi-subjunctive (a term I learned from A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language by Randolph Quirk et al.) or subjunctive-equivalent (a term I found in the Oxford English Dictionary).
     

    uptown

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I agree with dakotabrett. "It is necessary that..." sounds to me like a very forced translation of "il faut que..." While this translation is accurate, the construction "it is necessary that" isn't used frequently at all. The construction "il faut que" in French is convenient because it makes the obligation impersonal. Unfortunately, this doesn't really work in English.
     

    djamal 2008

    Senior Member
    arabic
    I agree with dakotabrett. "It is necessary that..." sounds to me like a very forced translation of "il faut que..." While this translation is accurate, the construction "it is necessary that" isn't used frequently at all. The construction "il faut que" in French is convenient because it makes the obligation impersonal. Unfortunately, this doesn't really work in English.
    "It is necessary that" is as english as it can be, sorry. Not a forced translation as you suggested.
     

    Aoyama

    Senior Member
    français Clodoaldien
    I have to be on time or I must be on time should do the job.
    The French "il est nécessaire que je sois à l'heure" is also -though correct- a bit unusual. "Il faut que ..." the impersonal version of "je dois ..." is more like " I have to /I must" .
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    If anytiing, it is necessary that would be a word-for-word translation of il est nécessaire que.

    In any case, it's been made clear that it doesn't sound right in English -- which doesn't mean it is ungrammatical or even totally unused -- and I agree with that.

    The question I'd like to ask djamal is...
    Are you specifically interested in it is necessary that or are you just trying to get to grips with the English subjunctive?

    It is necessary that is quite uncommon but there are many other English phrases or verbs that require the subjunctive and are much more natural (well, less dodgy, at least).

    Example
    He demanded that I be there on time
     
    Last edited:

    djamal 2008

    Senior Member
    arabic
    If anytiing, it is necessary that would be a word-for-word translation of il est nécessaire que.

    In any case, it's been made clear that it doesn't sound right in English -- which doesn't mean it is ungrammatical or even totally unused -- and I agree with that.

    The question I'd like to ask djamal is...
    Are you specifically interested in it is necessary that or are you just trying to get to grips with the English subjunctive?

    It is necessary that is quite uncommon but there are many other English phrases or verbs that require the subjunctive and are much more natural (well, less dodgy, at least).

    Example
    He demanded that I be there on time
    Or it is important that I be on time.
    And it is important that you not be late.
    How's that?
     

    baker589

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I would say:

    It is important that I am on time
    It is important that you are not late

    I completely agree with LV4-26 and Aoyama, It is necessary... is not very english sounding.
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    Or it is important that I be on time.
    And it is important that you not be late.
    How's that?
    If you ask a BE speaker, you're likely to get a negative answer (like baker's just above). BE speakers are not very fond of the subjunctive in general.

    If you ask an AE speaker, the answer will probably be "it's fine, but I don't say or write that often".

    Also note that the choice of "be" is not innocent. It makes your subjunctive more conspicuous, thus revealing a desire to sound formal.

    Compare with
    It is important that you get there on time
    Who's going to say whether it's a subjunctive or not? :)
     

    djamal 2008

    Senior Member
    arabic
    I have to be on time serait plus naturel...
    On trouve encore ce subjonctive avec certains verbes ou expressions tels que
    I suggest he stop singing.

    How about this : it's absolutely necessary to keep an umbrella handy during the rain. Sounds fine to me.
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    I guess this was an attempt by djamal to revert to the use of it is necessary. Actually, we seem to be discussing two topics at the same time.
    1) The use of it is necessary
    2) The present subjunctive in English

    So, to answer djamal's last question
    It is necessary to is not exactly the same as It is necessary that.

    And yes, as suggested by jpryda, the former sounds much more natural than the latter. Note that the (2nd) subject remains general/undefined in necessary to.
     
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