The Daily Mail and the subjunctive


The subjunctive exists (existe) in English. However, many people – including educated people – do not use it or are ignorant of it.

Here is a recent (24/03/2016) headline (titular) of the “Daily Mail”, an important British newspaper.

“A lorry`s stopped by Kent police and 26 migrants pour out (salen en tropel).

More proof (if it was needed) we´ve lost control of our borders”.

Where is the error? “Was needed” is incorrect. In English, to express something hypothetical or conditional, the subjunctive should be used. The correct form for this Daily Mail headline should have been:

  • More proof (if it were needed) we´ve lost control of our borders,

(if it were needed = si fuera necesaria).

In the same way, using the verb “to be”, the English should say “if I were rich”, I would…. (not if I was rich, I would).

So who is going to write to the editor of the Daily Mail pointing out the error? If the editor prints your letter, a free English lesson is on offer. I await your news.

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