Getting Subjunctive

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“This idea of ‘should have’ is a Pandora’s box of regret and hope.”

Vietnamese and many other languages do not feature subjunctive speech, however English and most Germanic languages are heavily laden with it. We employ the subjunctive excessively when expressing things that we want and that we’re afraid of. Without it, possibilities don’t have potential.

At Racialicious, Phuc Tran describes his upbringing in a Vietnamese-speaking household void of could’ve, would’ve, should’ve-s.

For my parents’ survival, however, this lack of the subjunctive was fundamental to their resiliency. They were able to provide for me and my brother, able to find the strength to do what needed to be done in part because they didn’t expend psychic energy on what could have been. In Vietnamese, there was just the naked indicativeness of the world, and they met it head-on.


Julie Morse lives in San Francisco and is a poetry teacher. She can be found @JulieMorse16 . More from this author →