English Grammar

Subjunctive Present versus Past

"It's time he pay (or he paid) attention to his appearance and spend (or spent) less time chasing women."

To me the expression "it's time" concerns the present tense, but my subjunctive present has been corrected into subjunctive past.
Are there some rules to learn?


  • My own native language which not the same as yours would use the subjunctive present in such case. But languages use to be crazy by some strange quirks.
    Here is what I know about the issue; I wonder whether I didn't pick it up in my GG workbook.

    In English the subjunctive preterit - preterit modal - doesn't refer to the past but to modality, i.e. unreal, hypothetical, imaginary facts.
    It is to be used:

    1. after IF (hypothesis)
    If you came, I'd welcome you.
    If only you were here, Gwendo, I'd meet with you.

    2. after I'D RATHER (wish)
    I'd rather you came.

    3. after WISH
    She wishes I were shorter.

    4. after IT'S TIME (yet unreal fact)
    It's high time I told you my thought.
    It's about time the bus came.
    It's time Philip spent less time chasing women.
  • What a wonderful grammar you own! Thank you Gee for your research work. I'm fully satisfied now on that foggy third Advent Sunday morning. Great!
  • There are only few verbs followed by the subjunctive present tense (inf. without "to" ) in English.
    I ask everyone be on time.
    I prefer you go alone.
    I suggest you learn your grammar.
    Be that as it may.

    The phrase "it's (about) time" is generally followed by the subjunctive preterit as Gee wrote above.

Please sign in to leave a comment.