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American vs. British: Tense and the subjunctive?
I have noticed what to me is an annoying use of the past tense by some British English when talking about something happening in the past when using the subjunctive.
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2012/10/10
8:33am
AnMa
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I have noticed what to me is an annoying use of the past tense by some British English when talking about something happening in the past when using the subjunctive.

I first noticed it when reading the Harry Potter books, but I noticed it again in an episode of the excellent political comedy The Thick of It:

John Duggan: How was your your holiday?

Nicola Murray: Well, you know. We wanted to go to Florida, but Malcolm suggested we went to Suffolk, so the kids were miserable, the weather was miserable, and Malcolm rang and shouted at me for looking miserable

If I had been editing this script, I would change Nicola’s line to “… Malcolm suggested we go to Suffolk …”

To me, these two sentences have two different meanings:

Malcolm suggested we go to Suffolk. = Malcolm instructed us to go to Suffolk.
Malcolm suggested we went to Suffolk. = Malcolm accused us of having gone to Suffolk.

Has anyone noticed this? And does it annoy anyone else the way it annoys me?

2012/10/11
4:32pm
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Robert
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Good point, now that you point it out–I never noticed that.
Also, the quoted passage is strange in another way: it jumps from the subjunctive ‘suggest’ straight into the simple past ‘kids were miserable’ etc. It should have proper transition like this:

Malcolm suggested we go
So we went
And the kids were miserable

I guess the excuse for the loose style is it’s meant to be fast and loose jabbering.

Bob Bridges, a most regular forumeer who has not been on for a while now, used to like to bring up subjunctive mood. He had had a period away from the forum before, and mentioned when he came back that he had been hospitalized.

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