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VERBS, AUXILIARY. May for the subjunctive in the sense of purpose

May used for the old subjunctive in the sense of purpose.

If we compare Wickliffe's with the sixteenth-century Versions of the New Testament, it appears that, in the interval, the subjunctive had lost much of its force, and consequently the use of auxiliary verbs to supply the place of the subjunctive had largely increased.

In 1 Cor. iv. 8, Wickliffe has, "And I wold that ye regne, that also we regnen with you," where the later Versions, "And I would to God that ye did reign, that we also might reign." So also Col. i. 28: "Techynge eche man in al wisdom; that we offre eche man perfight," where the rest have "that we may offer" or "to offer." So ib. 25, "that I fille the word of God" for "that I may fulfil." But may is found very early used with its modal force

The subjunctive of purpose is found in--

“Go bid thy mistress . . . she strike upon the bell.

“Sir, give me this water that I thirst not.” St. John iv. 15.

“He wills you, in the name of God Almighty,
That you divest yourself.

But it was not easy to distinguish the subjunctive representing an object, from the indicative representing a fact, since both were used after "that," and there was nothing but their inflections (which are similar in the plural) to distinguish the two. The following is an instance of the indicative following "that:"--

“But freshly looks and over-bears attaint
With cheerful semblance and sweet majesty,
That every wretch pining and pale before,
Beholding him, plucks comfort from his looks.

Hence arose the necessity, as the subjunctive inflections lost their force, of inserting some word denoting "possibility" or "futurity" to mark the subjunctive of purpose. "Will" is apparently used in this sense as follows:--

“Therefore in fierce tempest is he coming,
In thunder and in earthquake like a Jove,
That, if requiring fail, he will compel.

But, as a rule, may was used for the present subjunctive and might for the past, according to present usage. "That" is omitted in

“Direct mine arms I may embrace his neck.

i.e. "that I may embrace."


“Lord marshal, command our officers at arms
Be ready to direct these home alarms,

it is doubtful whether "be" is the subjunctive or the infinitive with "to" omitted (349). I prefer the former hypothesis, supplying "that" after "command." Compare

“Some one take order Buckingham be brought
To Salisbury.

So "that" is omitted before "shall:"

“The queen hath heartily consented he shall espouse Elizabeth.

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