I pray Christmas bring a lot of blessings – not brings! 

akeem lasisi
akeem lasisi

Compliments of the season! Because many of us are already in a festive mood, today’s lesson is going to be light. I will just call your attention to a specialised usage which proved too hard to handle for a lot of those who did the December 6 homework.

Remember this question:

I pray she … tomorrow.

(a) go (b) goes (c) went (d) will goes

Very simple. Simple? I doubt so, based on the number of people who missed the question. Predictably, such folks went for option B since the verb is supposed to be working with the personal pronoun, ‘she’. Their belief is that the simple tense form that goes with he, she and it is automatically singular (eats, dances, greets, writes etc.) but plural when it follows I, you and we. So, many of those who attempted the question chose ‘goes’:

I hope she goes tomorrow.

This is not correct, however. The reason is that the expression falls within the territory of the subjunctive mood. Remember the notorious subjunctive mood? Those who have been part of this class for some time should. After all, we have discussed it and highlighted the expressions it covers on a number of occasions. The subjunctive mood selects unusual – if not odd – verb forms because it expresses hypothetical situations, commands, wishes, suggestions etc. For instance, a segment of it eliminates singular verbs even when the subject of the clause is singular or when he, she and it are involved. That is why, although the following statements sound odd, they are standard expressions:

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I pray she go tomorrow.

They pray he repay the loan soon.

The landlord prays the dog return home from wherever it is.

(I pray) God help you.

From the above, it is clear that the construction with the unusual verb form here entails ‘I pray’, ‘She prays’, ‘We pray’ etc.

They prayed he go there last month

As a matter of fact, the rule is so peculiar that even if ‘pray’ is in the past tense, the verb in the objective clause remains plural and present! Here are some examples:

I prayed she go to Calabar the following day.

They prayed he repay the loan not long after.

Last year, the landlord prayed the dog return home from wherever it was.

I prayed God help you because I knew you were going through some trouble that year.

They recommend he resign immediately

There are other similar expressions you should treat like ‘I pray’. They are shown in examples below:

I recommend she stay where she is.

I recommended she stay where she was.

I suggest Daniel allow Gbemi to do her work.

I suggested Daniel allow Gbemi to do her work.

Buhari commands the aide proceed on an indefinite leave.

Buhari commanded the aide proceed on an indefinite leave.

In other words, the subjunctive mood is often associated with verbs such as order, command, ask, insist, wish, suggest and recommend. At times, the terms collocate with ‘be’:

The chief order she be there on Wednesday.

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