§ 121.The main verbs expressing necessity are: must, to have
to, to be to, should and ought to.
Yet care should be taken to remember that the verbs must, to
be to, should and ought to in their negative forms do not express
absence of necessity (see the use of these verbs above).
Absence of necessity is expressed by the negative forms of to
have toand need.
Inthe present tense:
e.g. You don't have to gothere.
You needn't gothere.
The two verbs generally differ in that needn't + infinitive in-
dicates that the speaker gives authority for the non-performance
of some action, whereas don't (doesn't) have + infinitive is used
when absence of necessity is based on external circumstances.
Cf.You needn'tcome here. (I'll manage everything without your
You don't have to cometo the Institute tomorrow. (There
will be no lectures tomorrow.)
In the past tense (where the regular form of the verb need is
found) the two verbs are similar in meaning. They both indicate
that there was no necessity, and hence no action. But to need is
not in common use.
e.g.You did not haveto go there.
You did not needto go there.
Note. Care should be taken not to use You needn't have gone there as an ex-
pression of absence of necessity because it means that an action was carried out
though it was unnecessary.
FORMS EXPRESSING UNREALITY
§ 122-As has been said above, owing to certain historical chang-
es. we find a variety of forms expressing unreality in present-day
English (see also "Verbs", § 73).
These forms are:
1) the plain stem of the verb for all persons (a survival of the
old Subjunctive Mood),
e.g. Ivory insisted that he be present, in the most friendly fashion
They proposed that he borrowthe money from the bank.
2) were for all persons (also a survival of the old Subjunctive
e.g. I wish I wereten years younger.
3) the form of the Past Indefinite,
e.g. He looked as if he knew about it.
4) the form of the Past Perfect,
e.g. He looked as if he hadseen a ghost.
5) should(for the first person, singular and plural) or would
(for the other persons) + infinitive,
e.g. If I had a garden I should growtulips in it.
If he had a garden he would growtulips in it.
6) should(for the first person, singular and plural) or would
(for the other persons) + Perfect infinitive,
e.g. If it hadn't rained I should have gonefor a walk.
If it hadn't rained he would have gonefor a walk.
7) should(for all persons) + infinitive,
e.g. I insist that he should meetus at the station.
8) would(for all persons) + infinitive,
e.g. I wish he wouldn't interruptme.
9) may (might)+ infinitive,
e.g. I'm telling you this so that you may write to your parents
I told you thatso that you mightwrite to your parents
10) can (could)+ infinitive,
e.g. I'm telling you this so that you can writeto your parents
I told you that so that you could writeto your parents
11) were to (for all persons) 4- infinitive,
e.g. If he were todiscover the truth he would never speak to us
§ 123.All these forms denoting unreality may be subdivided
into two groups according to their meaning.
Some of them are used to represent an action as hypothetical,
i.e. the speaker does not know whether the action will take place
or not, the realization of the action is doubtful, questionable.
e.g. Most of them insisted that the proposal be discussed without
They suggested that Meg shouldstay with them for another
Other forms express actions contradicting reality,i.e. actions
which cannot be realized.
e.g, I wish I hadseen the procession.
If I were a writer I should writedetective stories.
§ 124.The forms described above can be classified in the fol-
1) Of all the forms expressing unreality only one may be found
in the same syntactic structures as the Indicative Mood. The choice
between the two forms is based on meaning (see also "Verbs",
This form is built up analytically, by means of the auxiliary
verbs should/would+ infinitive.Although should is generally used
for the first person, singular and plural, and would for the other
Persons, there is a strong tendency in present-day English to use
Would for all persons. This fluctuation in the use of should and
Would disappears in spoken English where the contracted form 'd +
infinitive is used.
The form has two tenses: the present tense should/would + in
finitive which is used with reference to the present or future (a),
and the past tense should/would + Perfect infinitive which refers
the action to the past (b).
e.g. a) I should be glad to see him (if I had a chance).
b) I should have been glad to see him (if I had had a chance).
The use of should be glad in (a) is opposed to the Indicative
Mood in / am glad to see him or / shall be glad to see him. The use
of should have been glad in (b) is opposed to the Indicative Mood
in / was glad to see him.
Similarly, He would go there with pleasure (if it were possible)
is opposed to He will go there with pleasure; He would have gone
there with pleasure to He went there with pleasure.
This form may be called the Conditional Mood. It represents
an action as contradicting reality. The action is unreal because it
depends on an unreal condition; as the condition cannot be real-
ized, the action that depends on it cannot be fulfilled either.
In accordance with its meaning the Conditional Mood is often
used in the principal clause of a complex sentence of unreal condi-
e.g. If he were not ill he would come.
If he had not been ill he would have come.
2) The only forms of the old Subjunctive Mood that have sur-
vived in English are:
a) The form of the plain verb stem for all persons. It repre-
sents an action as hypothetical. It is used only in certain types of
subordinate clauses (see "Verbs", §§ 129, 131, 140).
e.g. He proposed that the plan be adopted.
It is necessary that you say it in his presence.
This form has no tense distinctions. In its use it is inter-
changeable with should + infinitive in definite types of subordi-
nate clauses and is mostly found in American English.
Traditionally this form is called the Subjunctive Mood.
b) The form were for all persons. It serves to show that an ac-
tion contradicts reality and is also used in certain types of subor-
dinate clauses (but not in the same types as the form of the plain
verb stem) (see "Verbs", §§ 132, 133, 136, 144, 146).
e.g- If I were you I should not accept his offer.
I wish he were here.
The form were refers the action to the present or to the future.
In some syntactic structures it is now often replaced by was.
3) As the formal difference between the Indicative Mood and
the Subjunctive Mood has in many cases disappeared, the forms of
the Past Indefinite (a) and the Past Perfect (b) came to express
unreality in English.
a) The form of the Past Indefinite is used to express an action
contradicting reality with reference to the present or future. This
use of the Past Indefinite is found in certain types of subordinate
clauses (see "Verbs", §§ 132, 133, 136, 144, 146).
e.g. If I knew it, I should tell you about it.
I wish I knew it.
Thus the Past Indefinite performs two different functions in
English: its main function is to represent an action as a fact re-
ferring to the past; but it may also represent an action as contra-
dicting reality with reference to the present or future.
Further in describing the use of the forms of unreality the
form were will be included among the forms of the Past Indefinite,
because they are used in the same constructions and with the same
meaning. It should be mentioned that were with the first and third
persons singular is often replaced by was in present-day English.
b) Parallel to the use of the form of the Past Indefinite, the
form of the Past Perfect came to represent actions contradicting re-
ality in the past. The Past Perfect is used in the same types of sub-
ordinate clauses as the Past Indefinite when it expresses unreality.
e.g. If I had known it, I should have told you about it.
I wish I had known it.
Thus actions contradicting reality are expressed in present-day
English by means of tense shift. The Past Indefinite is used to ex-
press unreality in the present, the Past Perfect has the same
function in the past.
4) Other means of expressing unreality in present-day English
aге combinations of modal verbs with an infinitive. They are
Mainly found in definite types of subordinate clauses (see "Verbs",
§§129, 131, 132, 135, 138, 140, 143, 149).
e.g. He suggested that we should jointhem.
Ifhe were to getthe job he would go on with his studies.
It should be noted that the modal phrase should (for all per-
sons) + infinitive is used in the same sentence patterns as the
Subjunctive Mood. The two forms exist side by side.
e.g. I suggest that he go (shouldgo) with us.
It is necessary that he go (shouldgo) with us.
In British English the difference between the two forms is sty-
listic: should + infinitive is in common use and may be found in
any style, whereas the use of the Subjunctive Mood is restricted
to the language of official documents and to high prose. In Amer-
ican English the Subjunctive Mood is generally preferred.
§ 125. To sum up all the forms described above, it is possible
to say that unreality is expressed in present-day English by the
a) by mood forms;
b) by the tense shift;
c) by modal phrases.
§ 126.All these means of expressing unreality may have the
continuous (a) and passive (b) forms if the lexical meaning of the
verb admits of that and when it is required by the situation.
e.g. a) If he were not readingnow we'd turn on the radio.
If he were in Moscow they would be showinghim the city.
He looked at me as if he were wonderingwhat they had on
b) They proposed that the meeting be adjourned (should be