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Allen and Greenough/ New Latin Grammar

Potential Subjunctive

445. Of the two principal uses of the Subjunctive in independent sentences (cf. § 436), the second, or Potential Subjunctive,1 is found in a variety of sentence-forms having as their common element the fact that the mood represents the action as merely conceived or possible, not as desired (hortatory, optative) or real (indicative). Some of these uses are very old and may go back to the Indo-European parent speech, but no satisfactory connection between the Potential and the Hortatory and Optative Subjunctive has been traced. There is no single English equivalent for the Potential Subjunctive; the mood must be rendered, according to circumstances, by the auxiliaries would, should, may, might, can, could.

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The name Potential Subjunctive is not precisely descriptive, but is fixed in grammatical usage.