Mood subjunctive


The subjunctive mood indicates that the speaker is referring to the verbal action as a possibility or probability. (e.g., he may eat, he should eat, he could eat). The subjunctive mood is also used as a mild command (let’s eat).

Example: Table VMS-1 Subjunctive Example

Table VMS-1 Subjunctive Example
Mark 14:14                        
ποῦ ἐστιν τὸ κατάλυμά μου ὅπου τὸ πάσχα μετὰ τῶν μαθητῶν μου φάγω;
pou estin to katalyma mou hopou to Pascha meta tōn mathētōn mou phagō?
Where it is the guestroom of my where the Passover meal with the disciples of me I may eat?

Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?


The subjunctive mood is used to portray a probable or desired action.

  • It is used when the action is viewed as being possible if certain conditions are met.
  • Dependent Clauses - The subjunctive in a dependent clause is the most common use of the subjunctive preceded with (ἐάν, ἐι, ἄν) [See Dependent Clauses]
  • Independent Clauses - The subjunctive may also be used in an Independent Clause either
    1. in a real question or
    2. in a question where an answer is not expected to be given.
  • Subjunctive of Purpose/Result – The subjunctive case is often used to show purpose or results of an action in a clause that is preceded with a ἵνα. [See Subjunctive of Purpose]
  • Exhortative Subjunctive - It is used in the first person as an exhortation (even to the point of being a mild command). {See Exhortative Subjunctive}
  • Prohibitive Subjunctive - It is used in prohibitions [See Prohibitive Subjunctive]
  • General Subjunctive - It may also be used if the action is viewed as probable, or possible (instead of the optative mood). [See General Subjunctive]

Verbs occur in the subjunctive mood 1,868 times in the New Testament.

Key words:

Verbs which are preceded by ἄν, ἐάν, ἕως, ὅταν, ὁς αν, or ὄπου ἄν will be in the subjunctive. This is a strong clue that a verb in the subjunctive is following.


Tense in the subjunctive mood refers to Aspect not time. Verbs in the subjunctive mood have no reference to time – past, present, or future.

  • Verbs in the present tense refer to continuous action.
  • Verbs in the aorist tense refer to an undefined aspect.
  • There are 10 perfect subjunctive verbs in the New Testament. These are all based on the verb οἴδα (to know) and would imply an ongoing effect based on the knowledge. See Perfect Tense


The subjunctive is based on the present or aorist tense of the verb.

  • The connecting vowel is lengthened. This lengthened connecting vowel is a key indicator of the subjunctive case.

See Paradigms verb_subjunctive

Present (or Continuous) Subjunctive
Present tense stem +
Lengthened connecting vowel (ω, η) +
                        Primary personal endings
active λυ + ω + μεν >  λύωμεν
middle/passive λυ + ω + μεθα > λυώμεθα

There is no augment for verbs in the aorist subjunctive as there is no reference to time.

There is no tense formative for verbs formed on the second aorist stem in subjunctive.

Aorist (or Undefined) Subjunctive
Unaugmented Aorist tense stem +
Tense formative (for 1st aorist verbs only)  +
Lengthened connecting vowel (ω, η) +
                        Primary personal endings
first aorist λυ + σ + ω + μεν > λύσωμεν
second aorist λαβ + ω + μεν > λάβωμεν

[Note: There is no augment in the aorist subjunctive]

Dependent Clauses

The most common use of the subjunctive is in dependent or conditional clauses. In fact, if the translator sees an ἐάν, ἐι, or ἄν they should start looking for a verb in the subjunctive case.


Table VMS-2 Dependent Clause Subjunctive
Mark 8:35                
ὃς ἐὰν θέλῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ σῶσαι ἀπολέσει αὐτήν
hos ean thelē tēn psychēn autou sōsai apolesei autēn
whoever   continually wishes the soul of him to save he will lose it

whoever wants to save his soul will lose it.

[Note: the word for word translation picks up on the continual aspect of the present subjunctive.]

Independent Clauses

The subjunctive case may also be used in an independent clause that is
  1. Asking a question or is seeking an answer, or in a
  2. Rhetorical question that is asking a question for the purpose of directing the hearers thinking, but not expecting an answer.


Table csv-3 Independent Clause Expecting an Answer
Matthew 11:3            
σὺ εἶ ἐρχόμενος ἕτερον προσδοκῶμεν?
sy ei ho erchomenos ē heteron prosdokōmen?
You are you the one who is coming or another shall we expect?

Are you the one coming, or are we expecting another?

  • [Note: In order to pick up on the continuous aspect of the present subjunctive, this could be translated; “Are you the one who is coming or are we to continue looking for another?”]


Table VMS-4 Independent Clause Rhetorical Question
Romans 6:1            
ἐπιμένωμεν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ ἵνα χάρις πλεονάσῃ?
epimenōmen hamartia hina charis pleonasē?
Shall we continue in sin in order that the grace may abound?

Should we continue in sin so that grace may abound?

[Note: πλεονάσῃ is an aorist subjunctive following a ἵνα clause. See Subjunctive of Purpose/Result below.]

Subjunctive of Purpose/Result

ἵνα + a verb in the Subjunctive mood may be used to express:

  1. the purpose for or
  2. the result from a course of action.

Approximately one-third (1/3) of uses of the subjunctive case in the New Testament fall into this category.


Table VMS-5 Subjunctive of Purpose/Result
Acts 16:30            
κύριοι τί με δεῖ ποιεῖν ἵνα σωθῶ?
kyrioi ti me dei poiein hina sōthō?
Sirs what I is necessary to do in order that I may be saved?

Sirs, what must I do in order to be saved?”

Exhortative Subjunctive

The Exhortative Subjunctive is also known as the Hortatory Subjunctive. It occurs almost always as a first-person plural expression. It is a polite way of encouraging others to join the speaker in a course of action. Sometimes it is also used as a command.

Example: Exhortative Subjunctive

Table VMS-6 Exhortive Subjunctive
1 John 4:7    
ἀγαπητοί ἀγαπῶμεν ἀλλήλους
agapētoi agapōmen allēlous
Beloved let us love one another

Beloved, let us love one another

Example : Exhortative Subjunctive as a command

Table VMS-7
Matthew 26:46            
ἐγείρεσθε ἄγωμεν! ἰδοὺ ἤγγικεν παραδιδούς με!”
egeiresthe agōmen! idou ēngiken ho paradidous me!”
Arise let us go look he is approaching the one who is betraying me

Get up, that we might go. Behold, the one betraying me has approached

[Note: In order to pick up on the imperatival force of the Exhortavie Subjunctive, this could also be translated, “Get up! Let us Go! Behold, the one betraying me has approached.”]

[Note: In this example ἐγείρεσθε is a second person plural imperative. Therefore the force of the imperative is carried over onto “Let us go.”]

Prohibitive Subjunctive

μή + a verb in the aorist subjunctive is used to indicate a prohibition.

οὐ μή + a verb in the aorist subjunctive is used to indicate an emphatic prohibition. Jesus uses this form to express that something will never happen. It adds extra strength to the prohibition.

Example of Simple Prohibition

Table VMS-8 Simple Prohibition
Matthew 1:20            
μὴ φοβηθῇς παραλαβεῖν Μαρίαν τὴν γυναῖκά σου
phobēthēs paralabein Marian tēn gynaika sou
not you should fear to take Mary the wife of you

you should not fear to take Mary as your wife,

Example of Emphatic Prohibition

Table VMS-9 Emphatic Prohibition
Matthew 24:35          
οἱ δὲ λόγοι μου οὐ μὴ παρέλθωσιν
hoi de logoi mou ou mē parelthōsin
the but words of me never they will pass away

but my words may certainly not pass away.

General Subjunctive

The subjunctive may also occur without any of the key words (ἄν, ἐάν, ἕως, ὅταν, ὁς αν,or ὄπου ἄν) to indicate something that is possible or even probable.

Example - General Subjunctive

Table VMS-10 General Subjunctive
Matthew 13:29        
ἐκριζώσητε ἅμα αὐτοῖς τὸν σῖτον.
ekrizōsēte hama autois ton siton.
you may uproot together with it the wheat

you might uproot the wheat along with them.