@tanehisi Only a mood in English, but it is used with dreams, doubts, wants and possibilties. It's why ppl say "if I were" instead of "was."-- Erin (Q.) Hinson (@myriare) March 1, 2013
To help with understanding the subjunctive, my French instructor has started giving me these "Subjonctif ou Indicatif" quizzes. The subjunctive is the terror of French students. You can go through any of my French posts and find people generally lamenting their ability to master the subjunctive. Part of the problem is that the subjunctive mood very much seems like a "mood." In other words, as much as it carries literal information, it seems like the subjunctive also emotes. Likely other moods also emote information (hence the point in calling them moods)
As someone who began his career in poetry, and is constantly telling his kids that language must carry both emotional and literal information, I love the subjunctive. It's like this dark, mysterious, achingly beautiful stranger. Which is different from saying I've mastered or I totally understand it. Mastery isn't the point. This is language study and study--in and of itself--is rewarding.
Part of the problem is that we think of foreign language as something to be conquered, or completed. We grade people in foreign language classes. The 'net is filled with sites that make claims like "Speak Fluent In French In Three Months!!!!" Everyone--including me--wants to know how long it will take to be fluent. But yesterday my French instructor told me there is no fluency, even she isn't "fluent." This is a person who speaks beautiful, beautiful French. Her point isn't that there is no literal "fluency" but that this isn't the best way to think about language study.