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Hi, please consider the sentence beginning with, "Ideally one would like to ensure that ... "

Do verbs following this phrase call for the subjunctive or the indicative mood?

"Ideally one would like to ensure that he be on time"? (mandative subjunctive)
"Ideally one would like to ensure that he is on time"? (indicative)

Or is this like a type-II conditional (hypothetical case) that should be written:

"Ideally one would like to ensure that he would be on time"

Thanks for your thoughts!
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Comments  (Page 2) 
CubeyHi, please consider the sentence beginning with, "Ideally one would like to ensure that ... "
Do verbs following this phrase call for the subjunctive or the indicative mood?
"Ideally one would like to ensure that he be on time"? (mandative subjunctive)
"Ideally one would like to ensure that he is on time"? (indicative)
Usages

  • ensure that he be on time 0 Google usages
  • ensure that he is on time 173.000 Google usages


  • (Regarding one and he I immediately understood he as one specific person, not everyone.)

    Grammatically the subjunctive introduces some kind of doubt or maybe a surprise. In the sentence there must be a call for subjunctive. I can't really define to the point of a math theory what a call for subjunctive is, but I can try to say that then you feel that you want to make a certain emotional distance that includes wishful or doubted result.

    • I am going to jump over that crack, however wide that be. (I do not know how wide it is but I am confident that I can jump over it) certainty of the result, uncertainty of conditions
    • He suggested that the blocks break into powder. (He suggested that the blocks [possible] breaking into powder might help us) uncertainty of the result, certainty of conditions
    • The book was placed in the clean cellar protected from moisture lest it stop its serious deterioration. a wishful result
    • and so on


    • (and of course the case of a conditional clause when a situation does not exist or with as and as if etc. but that is not what I am trying to concern here)

      Back to the example...

      Ideally one would like to ensure that he be/is on time

      Here, the wishful action is only to ensure.

      that he is on time is actually an object, it says what we want to ensure, subjunctive is wrong here because nothing calls for it, we really want that he is on time, we do not doubt or are surprised or anything regarding him being on time. This action he is on time is clear as sun.

      In case to ensure that he be on time, ensure and be are canceling each other out.

      Ideally one would like that he be on time. could be acceptable because now be expresses additionally our desire (but then ideally does not have much sense)

      Ideally one would like to ensure that he be on time =>

      • Ideally one would like to ensure that he maybe starts coming on time
      • Ideally one would like to ensure that he surprise us with coming on time
      • Ideally one would like to ensure that he behave as we wish - to be (always) on time.
      • Ideally one would like to ensure that he is on time either we know it or not.


      • I do not say that this is an exhaustive list but none of these works and I doubt anything else could because he is on time only precisely describes the action. There is nothing unusual regarding that.

        Certainly, we use subjunctive to express an impossible event. But, in this case it is not he is on time [he/him to be on time] what is impossible but to ensure it!

        If I could ensure that he be on time is maybe acceptable because you have one if and could that completely change the position of ensure. However in this situation you say If I could ensure that he was/were on time and maybe If I could suggest that he be on time

        • If I could be able to ensure that he be on time is not good
        • If I could be able to ensure that he is on time is better
Cubey Or is this like a type-II conditional (hypothetical case) that should be written:

"Ideally one would like to ensure that he would be on time"
The subjunctive be isn't usually replaced in contemporary texts by the "would be", but by should be (and mainly in BrE)

---------
Examples with ensure that he should be:

NOMINATION OF ROBERT M. GATES, OF VIRGINIA, TO BE DIRECTOR OF ...
The fact that Mr. Gates is superbly qualified does not automatically ensure that he should be supported for confirmation. It is the duty of the US Senate to ...

The Project Gutenberg EBook of Sally Bishop, by E. Temple Thurston ...
But now he was going out of his way-writing a letter, an action foreign to the whole of his nature-to ensure that he should be alone. ...

United Nations Human Rights Website - Treaty Bodies Database ... Anyone aware that charges are being brought against him in a preliminary investigation shall be entitled to request and to ensure that he should be heard ...
---------
Examples with ensure that he be:

[ Arbitrary detention / Judicial proceedings - IRN 002 / 0705 ...
ii. release him immediately and ensure that ensure that he be granted a fair and impartial trial so that all charges against him be dropped; ...

Faculty Council It was suggested that the Graduate Coordinator should be the person to sit on the Faculty of Graduate Studies since it was vital to ensure that he be kept ...

This is documented in Swan, Practical English Usage (
under should)

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Marius Hancu
CubeyOr is this like a type-II conditional (hypothetical case) that should be written:
"Ideally one would like to ensure that he would be on time"
The subjunctive be isn't usually replaced in contemporary texts by the "would be", but by should be (and mainly in BrE)
I agree, but should/would could give two different meanings as well. However, whatever I try doing the meaning remains weak if I use ensure..

Ideally one would like to ensure that he should be on time = Ideally one would like to ensure that a need for him to be on time is a good thing. (very clumsy, ensure is killing should be or makes it redundant)

  • Ideally one would like to propose/suggest/... that he should be on time. is acceptable, it is almost a requirement

  • Ideally one would like to propose/suggest/... that he would be on time. is acceptable again, it says that someone says that we can expect him to be on time (a less sure version of will)
  • that he should be on time = enforcement or certainty in spite of some (maybe unexpected) circumstances

  • that he would be on time = more casual event or certainty but less than with pure will or the present is
Thanks everyone for the lively discussion! I suppose there is an ambiguity in the sentence as to describing what action one, the subject, intends - ie, does one intend to make a request of someone to be on time, or does one simply want to be confident in the fact that this someone will be on time (no implied request)? Maybe this consideration should guide the usage. Indeed, the usages in Marius's post above, and Aperisic's comments, appear to follow this logic.
What about these sentences?

Should it be -

If he was to get the place at the school

or

If he were to get the place at the school
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The first is more casual in style; the second sounds a little more "high class".

Use either one in ordinary conversation, matching the style of the people you're speaking with.

Use the second one on an English test.

To save yourself the mental grief of deciding which to use when, use the second one in all situations and you can't go wrong.

Emotion: smile

CJ

Hi! I'll be disagreed with about this, but...

To me, in general the subjunctive suggests either force or doubt, so here my answer would depend on whether we meant an existing situation or one that might, or might not, come about. E.g.,

  • "Timofey swore he'd finish his homework before dinner; please ensure that he's finished it." (Asking for verification of a situation assumed to be true. Ensure that = verify/confirm that.)
  • "Timofey, please ensure that your homework be done by the time dinner is ready." (Asking to bring about a situation not currently true. Ensure that = cause to happen, without fail.)

This may be why "make sure" often steps in for "ensure"'; it seems to bridge the senses of reinforcing and compelling a certainty (that the homework currently is done, that the homework "become" done by time X).

Often I hear stuff like "It's important that he goes"; queaseville. It's another example of the distinction in meaning I mean:

  • "It's important that he goes to the zoo": The established fact that he does go (eg, every afternoon) is important; the victim was murdered in the afternoon, while he was, or normally would have been, at the zoo. So, detective, please ask around to ensure that he really does go to the zoo every afternoon.
  • "It's important that he go to the zoo": He will or will not go to the zoo, and if he doesn't, something bad will happen. So, henchman, ensure, by whatever means necessary, that he go to the zoo as soon as possible.

(To be super exact, you can add a comma to that first one only, to separate the ideas: "That he goes to the zoo is an important fact. It's important, that he goes to the zoo, and it's crucial that he go again tomorrow.")

Colloquially/informally, of course, no one bothers with the subjunctive pretty much ever. (Somewhere I saw a message about the American obsession with the subjunctive, but if such an obsession exist I've yet to see it manifest.) In both Amer and Brit English, tho particularly in Brit, we tend to soften the blow with "should", etc.—"It's crucial that he (should) leave at once." "I insist that he (will) be home by dawn." (Compare: "Don't tell me he's not home; I insist that he is home! Go check for yourself!")

In your example, for me it's definitely "be". It would be tough to ensure that "he is on time" for any particular meeting; you've have to do that at the very moment of expected arrival, as the time of "is" would necessarily be after that of "on time". You could ensure that "he was on time" by asking his colleagues or checking ID card readers or cameras. You could ensure that "he be on time" by threatening to fire him for lateness.

It's enough to put one into a mood.

(I also would suggest cutting "like" after "would"; it's redundant, as by definition an ideal is what you'd like. Of course, then it's a question of the emphasis of the wish—that he be on time? that the speaker have a means of establishing that he is, once or consistently, on time? that the speaker have a means of ensuring that he be on time?)

my $0.02

d

Thank you, dastardley, for your thought-out answer. However, I hope that you are aware that this thread has been stagnant for about nine years.

Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?

My search found it, so it can't be as stagnant as all that. (I suppose soon we all will be hopelessly tangled in dead threads.) Maybe it'll be of use to someone, some year. :-)

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