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Dear teachers,

Would you please tell me if we always need the subjunctive after "in case". Which of the following sentences are correct? Do they have the same meaning?

1) a) Take an umbrella in case it RAINS. (indicative ?)
b) Take an umbrella in case it SHOULD RAIN. (hypothetical occurrence = subjunctive ?)
c) Take an umbrella in case it RAINED. (correct ?)

2) a) Let’s stay at home in case Granny SHOULD DECIDE to come.
(hypothetical = subjunctive ?)

b) I took my violin in case I SHOULD HAVE a chance to play.

Thank you very much for your help.
Hela
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Comments  
We've done this before, Hela-- none of your sentences is subjunctive:

I. There are two forms of the subjunctive, called present and past.

-- The present subjunctive in all persons is 'be' for the verb 'to be', and the base form for all other verbs. Thus:
---- They demand (that) I be quiet.
---- They demanded (that) I be quiet.
---- They have requested that he leave the country.
---- They will be requesting that he not leave the country.

-- The past subjunctive exists only in were as a past form of 'to be':
---- If I were better informed, I could teach English.

II. There are two main uses of the present subjunctive, the mandative and the formulaic.

-- The mandative subjunctive is used in a 'that'-clause after a verb, adjective or noun of demand, recommendation, proposal, intention and similar notions:
---- I insisted that she stay for dinner.
---- It is necessary that the Eiffel Tower be repainted.
---- The requirement that the president resign for defalcation is fixed in stone.

-- The formulaic subjunctive is used in certain set expressions:
---- Come what may, I shall always be your friend.
---- God bless America.

III. There is one main use for the past subjunctive ('were'). It is used in conditional and concessive clauses and in subordinate clauses after 'wish' and 'suppose':
---- If I were you, I would not quit the day job.
---- He acts as though he were the lord of the realm.
---- I wish he were not so demanding.

It also appears in the stock phrase, 'as it were': He was, as it were a little dictator.

Those are the limits of the use of the subjunctive in English. Other forms of expression exist as equivalents of the subjunctive, such as:

I insist that he should finish quickly.
I wish I was dead.

1) a) Take an umbrella in case it RAINS. INDICATIVE.
b) Take an umbrella in case it SHOULD RAIN. 'SHOULD' CONDITIONAL.
c) Take an umbrella in case it RAINED. INCORRECT AND MEANINGLESS.

2) a) Let’s stay at home in case Granny SHOULD DECIDE to come. 'SHOULD' CONDITIONAL.

b) I took my violin in case I SHOULD HAVE a chance to play. 'SHOULD' CONDITONAL.
Hello MM

Please help me to confirm my understanding about the "should" conditional you mentioned.

(indicative) "Take an umbrella in case it rains." ....says Speaker A
(shoud con.) "Take an umbrella in case it should rain.".....says Speaker B
Let:
Pi(R)=the likelihood of raining the speaker A is supposing.
Ps(R)=the likelihood of raining the speaker B is supposing.

Do you mean:
Ps(R) is far less than Pi(R), for example, Pi(R)=0.5 and Ps(R)=0.05?

paco
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Hi Paco,

I am curious too-- can you quantify your L1 in this way? English stubbornly resists such mathematics, as it relies far too much on nonverbal cues and context. There are a few exceptions, such as the adverbs of frequency, which grammarians love to show off in a neat, ordered range from 'never' to 'always'-- but assigning percentages to them is an exercise in futility.

Here, in any case, I made no comment regarding relative probabilities, did I? If I were forced under pain of the rack to order your Pi(R) and Ps(R), I would have to say that Pi(R)~Ps(R) -- and then I would probably receive one more twist of the rack.
Hello MM again!

Oh sorry. I had no intention to rack you by math expressions. But we use an idiomatic adverbial phrase "at a likelihood of one per ten million" (man ga ichi ni) to say our expectation about any future event when we think the likelihood is much lower than normal. And I was told in school we had to translate the "should" conditional sentence into Japanese using the phrase man ga ichi ni. I was given a wrong instruction by our stubborn prescriptive teachers, maybe

paco
Our equivalent of man ga ichi ni is pretty much the same: 'She is so ugly that she has only a one-in-a-million chance of getting married'.

The simple 'if it should' is not nearly so extreme, it just reflects the unknown future.
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Hello Mr M!
The simple 'if it should' is not nearly so extreme, it just reflects the unknown future.

I'm sorry to trouble you but I'm still sticking to "should conditional".
What is the difference in meaning or in speaker's attitude among the following four?
(1) If it rains tomorrow, the picnic will be ruined.
(2) If it should rain tomorrow, the picnic will be ruined.
(3) If it should rain tomorrow, the picnic would be ruined.
(4) If it were to rain tomorrow, the picnic would be ruined.

paco
No trouble; that's why we are all here: to talk about these things. I will stick to your question, though--

'What is the difference in meaning or in speaker's attitude among the following four?'

Pragmatically (i.e. within the presumed context-- two acquaintances readying their themoses and insect repellent), no difference. The speaker doesn't know whether it will rain (who does?!), but s/he understands that rain ruins picnics. More subtly, the speaker of (1)-- aside from being more colloquial-- probably sees rain as more likely than the other three speakers.

But they are basically just four ways of giving the same opinion. The grammars can all be argued, but the semantics are functionally inseparable by any real standards or 'percentages' of probability.
Mr M

Thank you for the reply.

I'm afraid the previous example would be inadequate in the context to contrast the four constructs.

(1) If that kind of tsunami comes to Japan tomorrow, Tokyo will be devastated.
(2) If that kind of tsunami should come to Japan tomorrow, Tokyo will be devastated.
(3) If that kind of tsunami should come to Japan tomorrow, Tokyo would be devastated.
(4) If that kind of tsunami were to come to Japan tomorrow, Tokyo would be devastated.

Are they still no different in meaning even in this context? Which would sound most natural among the four when you hear them?

paco
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