Ask Archer: The Right Mood
Archer Answers Your Big Questions

Dear Prof. Archer,

I am responding to a letter that my daughter posted last June the 10th

As a father aggrieved, it was imperative that I wrote you. I found it quite rude, to say the least. Please learn to be respectful in your replies. If I was taught to hit creatures smaller than I am, I would totally kick your ass.


With Love,

Aggrieved Dad


Dear Aggrieved Dad,


I welcome your message with a heavy heart. It was not my intention to be hard on your daughter. I was merely showing her how we civilized folk are supposed to speak the Queen’s language. My own mother trained me in such a way. I would also have you know that she was a bitch. She was, in fact, a class-A bitch, and I can show you papers stating that. Thank you, mum.

Nevertheless, I understand your predicament and intend to rectify the situation. You have indeed come to the right animal for this. It is also my birthday, so I shall be brief. I smell a celebration.

First of all, I must say that I really feel sorry… for your usage of verbs. When you stated “As a father aggrieved, it was imperative that I wrote you.” what you really wanted to say was “As a father aggrieved, it was imperative that I WRITE you.” This is the present subjunctive mood. It is used to express present and past desires in ’that clauses’. I would say, for example, “It is better for the gene pool that you have yourself neutered.” This conveys a desire for having you neutered with the ultimate end in bettering the gene pool. The ‘that clause’ would be ‘that you have yourself neutered.’ Please compare this with the present indicative mood: “You have yourself neutered.” This merely states (i.e. indicates) the fact that you are having your dangly bits shorn off by a professional.

Secondly, I want to express my regret… at some more of your verb usage. You said, “If I was taught to hit creatures smaller than I am, I would totally kick your ass.” This is where the past subjunctive mood should be employed. Like so: “If I WERE taught to hit creatures smaller than I am, I would totally kick your ass.” Again, this implies a wish or desire. For the past subjunctive mood, the only acceptable form of ‘be’ is ‘were’, regardless of the pronoun. I would thus say, in the purpose of illustration, “If I were given opposable thumbs, I would relish neutering you myself with garden shears.” Also, “If you were blessed with the motor skills of a vertebrate, you would do it yourself.” Lastly, “If my mother were here now, she would not even need gardening tools for such a task.” Thank you, mum.

I hope you accept this sincere apology. Because it is my birthday, you shall receive a high-protein treat in the mail.


I remain, yours, subjunctive-moodily ,

Archer (Prof.)


P.S. You may find my previous columns HERE.

Categories: [language], [self-help]

[4] Comments


  • katz says:
    July 3, 2012 A.D. at 3:55 PM

    Dear Prof. Archer,

    Am I a Kardashian or aren’t I?

    -Khloe Kardashian

    (just wondering if this is correct)

    • Ronan says:
      July 3, 2012 A.D. at 5:03 PM

      I am indeed the right animal for this. The correct question would be ‘Am I a Kardashian or am I not?’ This may sound overly formal but it is correct. ‘Aren’t I?’ is informally acceptable, but it is still wrong. You would not say ‘I are! Are I not?’, would you? To answer your query, either case would suffice (as long as you gauge the situation). You being a Kardashian, however, means that you are wrong, anyway. Ta!

  • katz says:
    July 4, 2012 A.D. at 7:45 PM

    You’re the best Prof. Archer! I feel so much smarter :)

    • Ronan says:
      July 13, 2012 A.D. at 6:29 PM

      As long as you do not trust that feeling, you will be fine.



Leave a Reply