The subjunctive is a grammatical mood that we use to express that something might, should, or hopefully will happen. This is a very brief definition of a rather complicated grammatical term, but it should suffice for the explanation of the Dutch subjunctive. We do not use it very often and if we do, it is usually part of a fixed expression.
Forming the Dutch subjunctive
In English, we do not distinguish between singular and plural subjunctives, but in Dutch we do. However, the plural form is rarely used.
The plural subjunctive is the same as the infinitive. For the singular form, we have to subtract -n from the infinitive.
Singular subjunctive: infinitive minus -n
Plural subjunctive: infinitive
|Lang leve de koning!
||Long live the king!
|Moge de beste schaker winnen.
||May the best chessplayer win.
|Lange leven de buren!
||Long live the neighbours!
|Mogen de beste schaatsers winnen.
||May the best ice-skaters win.
Although the subjunctive can be conjugated in all eight tenses, we only use it in the present tense.
Subjunctive forms of zijn
Just like in English, the verb zijn (to be) is an exception: Next to the present form, we also use the past. However, its use is limited to the fixed expression 'were it not'.
The singular forms are still commonly used in the expressions 'be it' and 'were it not'.
|Ze zal toch naar Amsterdam gaan, zij het met een ander vervoermiddel.
||She will still go to Amsterdam, be it with a different means of transportation.
|Het zij zo.
||So be it.
|We zouden morgen naar Amsterdam gaan, ware het niet dat de treinmachinisten morgen weer staken.
||We would go to Amsterdam tomorrow were it not that the train conductors are on a strike again.
The plural forms are virtually non-existent in modern Dutch.