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ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > would rather and the subjunctive    

would rather and the subjunctive



ep89za
Greece

would rather and the subjunctive
 
Hello everyone,
 
Iïŋ―ve recently come across the following post on a teachers fb group. I would love to have your views on it. It is a MC question from an ECCE book.
 
- I would rather _____________ so much all the time.
- So would I. 
a.  them not talk
b. they not talk
c. they had not talked
d. them not to talk
 
What is the right answer (and why, of course).
 
Thanks a lot,
 
Zoi 

9 Dec 2020      



TeacherARG
Argentina

Hi!
What bothers me is not "īd rather" but "all the time"
 
As far as I know, the pattern is "First subject+would rather+ 2nd Subject + subjunctive (2nd Column)"
Iīd rather they didnīt work so late.
 
or
Iīd rather they had arrived on time. (Which, they didnīt.)
 
Now... "all the time" would imply a habit, so it doesnīt add up. It should have said:
Iīd rather they didnīt talk so much (all the time they are in class).
 
I hope Iīve made myself clear.
 
 

9 Dec 2020     



ep89za
Greece

First of all, thank you for the response.
 
Well, "all the time" does not necessarily refer to the present. It may well refer to the past, in which case C is the right answer.
My view on the topic is that there is insufficient information in this MC question for an answer to be given. 
 
However, let us assume that it refers to the present. Is B the right answer? Should it not be something like:
"I would rather they did not talk"?
 
Or can we assume that "did" can be omitted? And is that right in English or not?
 
 

9 Dec 2020     



TeacherARG
Argentina

First important point:
Is this for British English or American English?
 
Sorry. I was in Exam mode and  took it for granted it was BE!
 
As far as I know,  the bare infinitive (not using the "did/should") is common in AE.
He recommended the applicant be on time. No should!
Itīs important she finish before 5.  No Should, either.
 
So... Iīd rather he not learn the truth.
I would rather they not talk all the time.
 
Now I see why they didnīt include: didnīt talk! That would have meant there were 2 possible answers.
 
As to "all the time" referring to the past, youīd have to add something. The way it is refers to Habits/Typical behaviour, as in "all the time they were in class"
 
Iīd choose: B
Now I have to hit the books and make a list of comparisons! :)

9 Dec 2020     



ep89za
Greece

Thanks again for the answers TeacherARG 
 
However, the subjunctive used in expressions like "It is important that..." or  "He recommended that..." is just because "should" is omitted in AmE. (Which this test is in btw).
 
In the case of "would rather", "should" is never used - as far as I know, of course. I have not met the situations where "didn_t" is omitted in such cases. That is why I_m asking. 
 
The editor of the book gives C as the right answer, which is quite confusing, of course.
 
Thanks again! 

11 Dec 2020     



TeacherARG
Argentina

This is so interesting!
 
As I said in my first message, what bothers me is not "they hadnīt talked". Itīs "all the time ", which makes reference to some kind of typical behaviour. There is a PAST reference missing for students to realize the preference refers to a previous action. Thatīs why itīs confusing. Thereīs no context.
 
The right answer is C because it follows the "traditional/recommended" pattern:
 
Iīd rather you did that early in the morning, not late at night. (But you donīt.)
Iīd rather you didnīt use a knife to cut paper. (But you do and it drives me crazy.)
 
Iīd rather you had done the shopping earlier. Now itīs too late. The shops are closed.  (But you didnīt!)
Iīd rather you hadnīt bought me that present. You spent too much money. (But you did anyway, and now weīre short of money.)
 
Youīre very welcome,

11 Dec 2020     



ep89za
Greece

You have both been incredibly helpful!
Thanks so much for the input! 

12 Dec 2020     



TeacherARG
Argentina

First and foremost, KWSP, I wouldnīt dare disagree with you because Iīm not a native speaker. I basically rely on what Iīve studied and learned, and what I hear (and keep records of ) people say. I know what you mean when you say: it doesnīt sound right!
 
Back to the point at stake, in my opinion, the correct answer is C, simply because it is a standardized exam and it follows the recommended usage. I do understand that "all the time" can refer to past, present of future, but I personally think itīs very misleading here. It doesnīt help students realize theyīre expressing a Present preference about a Past event so they have to choose C. Iīve seen this happen many times in exams. That was my original point.
 
If you donīt mind I would like to ask you the following:
Letīs forget for a sec weīre dealing with a multiple choice. How would you complete this dialog? Use as many words as you feel like
A: Iīd rather they ___________________ so much all the time.
B: So would I.
 
@ep89za
I love this kind of analysis so youīre very welcome!
 
Best,

12 Dec 2020     



Gurnoor
Switzerland

Hello! :)
 
Would this be correct?
 
Iīd rather they didnīt talk so much all the time. (present situation, expressing annoyance/dissatisfaction with a habit, but can be used to express a hope for the future as well.)
 
Iīd rather they wouldnīt talk so much all the time. (present situation expressing annoyance)
 
Iīd rather they hadnīt talked so much all the time. (past situation) 
 
Thanks! 
 
Best regards, 

12 Dec 2020     



ep89za
Greece

Hello and thanks for your answer.
 
I don_t see why not.
That is why I believe such an MC question should not be included in a test - as it was given, of course, in the book. , or in a B2 CEFR level test.

14 Dec 2020