demanded he write down

The sentence from the Bible:
,There he captured a young man from Succoth and demanded that he write down the names of all the seventy-seven officials and elders in the town’’.

Please tell me, does, demanded that he write down’’ mean simply:,demanded him to write down’’?

So far I probably have not met with this structure of sentence: demanded that he write down.

Thanks for help heartily :slight_smile:

Hi Saneta,

This is an example of a very formal and in a sense old construction. As it stands, it is an example of the subjunctive (he write down) and it means demanded that he should write down. Another example is: I reminded them that they be quiet during the ceremony. It is much easier to say: I reminded them to be quiet. In your example you would have to find another word for ‘demand’ which requires ‘that’ + the next clause or sentence. You could say: asked him formally to write down.


Yes.This structure is called “subjunctive”, that always follows by a bare infinitive:
He suggested that she do her homework carefully.
It is necessary that you be on time tomorrow.
Hope this helps,

Hello Saneta

That sort of use of the present subjunctive is not particularly formal in American English. I would not be at all surprised to hear it used even in everyday conversation. Apparently we use it much more often than our British cousins do.

The form of the present subjunctive is the same as a bare infinitive. It tends to be used in ‘that-clauses’ after certain verbs and phrases. Here are some of them:

  • ask (that)
  • be determined (that)
  • demand (that)
  • emphasize (that)
  • insist (that)
  • move (that)
  • on the condition (that)
  • propose (that)
  • provided (that)
  • recommend (that)
  • request (that)
  • require (that)
  • so that it (not)
  • suggest (that)
  • urge (that)

[color=green]I suggested that he stay at the Hilton Hotel.
We insisted that the cab driver keep the change.

The present subjunctive is also often used in sentences with the following pattern:

It is + adjective* + that + noun/pronoun + subjunctive… <<<

  • There are certain types of adjectives that tend to be used in that pattern. For example:
  • It is critical / crucial / essential / imperative / important / necessary / vital (that)…

[color=green]It is vital that you be on time in the future. Otherwise you may find yourself out of a job.

[size=75]“How few there are who have courage enough to own their faults, or resolution enough to mend them.” ~ Benjamin Franklin [/size]

Very interesting but just to offer a joke, Amy, would not “our British ancestors” be more natural than “our British cousins”?

Another question is, just like our Japanese Kanji which came from China about two thousand years ago and which we still call Kanji (=Han dynasty’s characters) even without the qualifier ‘Japanese’ for the due respect to China, American English is the English language used in America, isn’t it? You cannot change the word into *English American (= *the American language used in America and England), can you?

BTW, I love to read your quotations, especially this time.

Best regards,


Hello Haihao,

Actually, no. Our British ancestors probably used the present subjunctive just as often (if not more often) as we “Colonials” do now. After all, the present subjunctive is not something we invented on this side of the pond. Rather, it was brought here by our British ancestors. We have cared for it, and used it, and kept it alive ever since. Apparently, the poor old subjunctive has met a different fate in the UK.

The term ‘American English’ is widely used to identify the variety of English spoken in North America. The variety of English spoken in the UK is widely referred to as ‘British English’. Neither today’s American English nor today’s British English is the same as the English that was first brought to North America by the British. English has gone through a natural process of change over the last few centuries, but the changes on the British side of the Atlantic have not been identical to the changes on the American side. Nevertheless, the two varieties of English still have far more similarities than differences.

One notable difference between the two present-day varieties of English has popped up in this thread. The use of the subjunctive that Alan labeled ‘very formal’ and ‘old’ is to my American ear simply ‘standard’ and ‘current’.

In a way, I’m surprised that Alan did not mention this difference since we have discussed it before right here in the forum. Surprising that he’d ignore such a difference, isn’t it? After all, based on what Alan has told us, this difference involves a significant difference in register. And register is something that ESL students also need to learn.


[size=75]“The ancestor of every action is a thought.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson[/size]

Hi, Saneta,

I think you are correct. “…demanded that he write down…” means “…demanded him to write down…”

Your question has something to do with Subjective Mood. Like me, I also encountered so many similar sentence constructions in the King James and other Bible versions. I was so fascinated with the subjective mood that I even considered making it my subject for my thesis, but the Philippine system (I’m a Filipino) requires that all topics are (be) screened and approved for a thesis. Note that I said, ” … requires that all topics are (be) screened and approved…” not “…requires that they should be screened and approved…”). The preceding is an example of the subjunctive mood. To “require” means to make something compulsory and the equivalent word is “should”, right? In your sample sentence, the word “demand” is “to insist”, “to order”, a necessity, a compulsion— something that need be done, something that compels somebody to do something, right?. Again, the equivalent is “should”. So, why combine “demand” with “should? The most common subjunctive verbs are: request, suggest, recommend, demand, ask, wish, order, rule, require, pray, move. Wrong: I move that the nomination “should” be closed. Correct: I move that the nomination be closed. Explanation: A motion remains to be a motion (pending approval or acceptance by a body) unless it is duly seconded. A motion is only a proposal that need be seconded. A suggestion may or may not be taken, so don’t combine it with “should”. Another example, “The president was asked that he explain his huge wealth.” The president may, or may not, explain his wealth, right?

I think the new generation has the tendency to do away with the subjunctive for reasons that need not be discussed here (need not be, another subjunctive). Of course, language is dynamic–it changes. Also, I think Americans use the subjunctive more than the British people do (or is it the other way around?)

I have collected more than a hundred verb and noun words (with their usage context) used in the subjunctive from the workplace and from the Web. I can share it with you if you wish. However, I would suggest that you consult a good English grammar book for a better, exhaustive and authoritative explanation. You see, being a Filipino, mine is a Filipino English and no better than that of a native speaker.

Hope this helps.


Hi, Saneta,

Re “…demanded that they…” sorry for the error; I meant “Subjunctive” not “Subjective”.

Hello Amy,

I respect the Great Britain for her efforts: the efforts to let people know their possibility is beyond what they have imagined: the whole modern world today is on the shoulder of her numerous giants.
I respect the United States for her efforts: the efforts to let people know what generosity is: anybody can have an American dream and the dream brings hope to the entire world.

However, what I respect most is the efforts from both of them: the efforts to let people know of a culture a part of which has been translated into Japanese as “to hate the sin but not to hate the man.” Let’s try our best to be blessed as a peacemaker, shall we?

Best regards,



I have a confession to make. I believe I have been too hard on the subjunctive as I have a bias against it and maybe I should come clean and admit that it still has a life in the UK. If it were (there I’ve used it) able to speak, it might be able to take a leaf out of Mark Twain’s book and say: Rumours (he would have written ‘rumors’) of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

As for ‘cousins’ in relation to the USA and the UK, I think this is used more often fraternally (the best word I can think of as ‘cousinly’ seems not to exist) rather than linguistically.

Pace subjunctive!


Hi everybody, Thanks a million for your posts!
Mr Alan, please explain to me :I have been too hard on the subjunctive? to be too hard on sth?

Hi Saneta,

I meant I was being too critical and not really allowing it to be taken seriously.


Hi Esl_Expert,

That’s very nice information. This is the first time I see present subjunctive here.

1)Do ‘present subjunctive sentences’ come only in ‘that’ clause?

2)There he captured a young man from Succoth and demanded him that he write down the names of all the seventy-seven officials and elders in the town’’.

Is this sentence fine or awkward?

3)Replacing ‘demand’
… from Succoth and asked him that he write down the names…

… from Succoth and requested him that he write down the names…

Are these sentences fine or awkward?

4)It is only possible to write present subjunctive sentences using reporting verbs. ( in other words without reporting verbs we can’t write present subjunctive senteces)

Is the statement correct?


If you’re going to use demand + him you also need to use ‘of’
“He demanded of him that he write…”
“He demanded that he write.” doesn’t need ‘of’.

‘asked him’ is correct, but use of ‘asked’ rather than ‘demanded’ changes the strength of the verb. A demand indicates that there is no choice, whereas to ask indicates that the person has the option to refuse. ‘asked of him’ is also correct.

‘requested him’ -

As in the first example above, for ‘request’ you need to add the word of.
“he requested of him that he write”
“He requested that he write” could also be used.
Again, a request indicates that the person has a clear option to refuse.

You might consider replacing ‘demand’ with ‘insisted’, so there is no choice.
“He insisted of him that he write.”
“He insisted that he write.”


I’ve been using English now for rather a long time but I’ve never heard of these constructions before:


Hi Alan,

I’ve been using English a long time too, and I have! You obviously have the ‘advantage’ of age, but I guess we’ve moved in different circles! Anyway, you’ve already admitted to having a bias against the subjunctive clause. :smiley:

Hey BN, I didn’t even have a dream that you were so rude a person! Don’t forget you are murmuring or chattering under Alan’s roof here on this site! What’s the matter with you?


I don’t quite follow the connection with my self confessed bias against the subjunctive - I’m not admitting ignorance of that verb form but merely that I don’t like it but I do admit ignorance of

. I am curious and would be interested to see some examples of this construction as it’s used in your ‘circles’.


Me too!

For the circles part, I dried up my limited source but found none. Could you provide one for circles sake, BN?

Thanks BN,Alan,Haihao