New Theme! What do you think?

Study, speak, and hang out with fellow Elvish students!

Quenya Grammar P85: Subjunctive

The subjunctive mood is used for various “unreal” (conditional or hypothetical) statements: things where the speaker is uncertain whether or not they are true. These are slightly different from the optative (things the speaker hopes or wishes were true) and the imperative (actions the speaker demands be done). The various “unreal” formations in Quenya are indicated by particles rather than verbal inflections, a concept Tolkien introduced in Early Qenya and mostly stuck with thereafter:

The conditional or subjunctive. This is not expressed inflectionally but by particles, nai and {ke >>} ki, of which nai represents remoter possibility (“might”), ki (nearer) “may” … “If” is expressed by mai (Early Qenya Grammar, 1920s, PE14/59).

The notions corresponding to the subjunctives, optatives, and conditionals of I-E. languages were seldom in Eldarin languages expressed inflexionally. The normal method was to use adverbial particles of “possibility”, “remoter possibility”, or of “supposition” in close connexion with the verb (Quendian & Common Eldarin Verbal Structure, late 1940s, PE22/97).

Expression of “Mood”: possibility, condition, supposition, wish … The particles and conjunctions chiefly used in Quenya were qe “if”; ai “maybe, supposing”: the “nearer” particle; and auve, au “might (have), would (have)”: the “remoter” particle (Quenya Verbal System, late 1940s, PE22/120).

Moods. The modifications of sense, and implication corresponding to the “moods”: subjunctive, injunctive, optative, etc.: of modern European languages were not in Eldarin languages expressed inflexionally in the common period … There existed, however, already in Eldarin certain adverbial particles, of possibility, remoter possibility, supposition, and wish, that could be used for greater precision (Common Eldarin: Verb Structure, early 1950s, PE22/138).

KWI- “suppose”. KE “may (be)” … quĭ when simple and unemphatic, of a simple supposition or consequence … quī or quīta is used when (a) supposition is known to be not in accord with fact … “may be” (Late Notes on Verb Structure, 1969, PE22/158).

The exact set of particles Tolkien used evolved over time. In the conceptual stages up through the early 1950s, Tolkien identified three basic markers for unreal statements: (1) a marker for “near” possibility, (2) a marker for “remote” possibility and (3) a conjunction for conditionals “if”. In various conceptual periods these were:

  • 1920s (EQG): ki “near possibility”, nai “remote possibility”; mai “if”.
  • 1940s (QVS): ai “near possibility”, au(ve) “remote possibility”; qe “if”.
  • 1969 (LVS): “maybe”; qui “if”, quí(ta) “if (counterfactual)”.

It is not clear whether Tolkien abandoned the distinction between near and remote possibilities by the 1960s, or if he simply didn’t list all the possible forms. Tolkien seemed less certain of these forms in the 1960s, for example some late notes he said was “if” rather than “maybe” (VT49/19). For purposes of discussion, I will use the term “uncertainties” for the markers of “near and remote possibility”, and “suppositions” for the marker or conjunction of conditionals. I will use the term “subjunctives” to collectively refer to all of these. The “uncertainties” roughly correspond to the use of the English word “maybe” and the “suppositions” to the use of the English word “if”.

Subjunctives and verb inflections: In most of his writings Tolkien said subjunctives were “not expressed inflectionally”, but at a few points Tolkien introduced (or hinted at) specific verbal inflections for subjunctives. In late 1920s Qenya Conjugations, Tolkien gave a specific “conditional” inflection distinguished from the future by its use of short vs. long pronominal suffixes: future tuluvanye “*I will come” vs. conditional tuluvan “*I would come”; these glosses are theoretical, since Tolkien did not explain the exact function of the conditinal tense (PE16/124).

In Common Eldarin: Verb Structure (EVS2) written in the early 1950s Tolkien seemed to consider the possibility of subjunctive modal inflections, albiet in Noldorin [pre-Sindarin] rather than Quenya:

There existed, however, already in Eldarin certain adverbial particles, of possibility, remoter possibility, supposition, and wish, that could be used for greater precision. These were placed in close connexion with [the] verb. Most frequently they appear to have immediately preceded it. But they could follow it; and in cases where (while the primitive collocations of pronominal affixes and adverbial adjuncts had not yet been agglutinated into inseparable inflexional forms) they preceded the pronouns the germs of modal inflexion were already to hand. (These only actually developed in the Noldorin dialects.) (PE22/138).

However, Tolkien put an “X” next to the parenthetical comment about Noldorin, apparently rejecting once again the notion of subjunctive inflections (PE22/138 note #44). In any case they did not appear in Quenya at this conceptual stage.

This is not to say there was no connection between verb tenses and the subjunctive, only that Quenya mostly used the normal tenses in subjunctive statements. As explained in EVS2:

The normal or “indicative” forms indeed were used without modification, where the context made it clear that a sentence was not narrative or statement of fact. Or indeed even when the whole tone and trend of the narrative, situation, or conversation would not have made it clear to Men. To the Eldar an entire narrative of invention (about things or events not supposed or known in Ea) needed a “suppositional” form or indicator in its verbs as much, or as little, as the expression of a wish, or the definition of a possible event contingent on “if” or an “if”-clause, or indeed of a statement in the future — other than prophecy (PE22/138).

Thus normal verb forms, together with various particles of uncertainty, were used for statements about the unreal, while certain verb tenses like the future were inherently unreal (except perhaps in prophecy). In the Quenya Verbal System (QVS) of the 1940s, however, certain specialized compound tenses were used mainly with conditional or subjunctive statements (see Conditionals and Compound Tenses below).

Uncertainties: Expressions of uncertainty are those where the speaker has doubt about the truthfulness of a statement. In English, such statements are made with the adverb “maybe” or the modal verb “may”: “maybe he loves you” or “he may love you”. A great degree of uncertainty can be expressed with the modal verb “might”: “he might love you (but I think it is unlikely)”. These are opposed to ordinary “indicative” statements of simple truth: “he loves you”.

In the Early Qenya Grammar (EQG) of the 1920s (PE14/59), similar expressions of uncertainty were made using particles of uncertainty ki (“near possibility, may”) and nai (“remote possibility, might”) that follow the verb:

  • ᴱQ. hi·tule ki “she may be coming, may come”.
  • ᴱQ. hi·tule nai “she might (possibly) come or be coming”.

Similar statements could be made of the past and future:

Finding similar statements of uncertainty in Tolkien’s later writing is a challenge, but one such statement appears in Late Notes on Verb Structure (LVS) from 1969: {lá karitas ké nauva alasaila >>} lá karitas alasaila ké nauva “not doing this may be/prove unwise”, with the particle of uncertainty preceding the verb. There is another statement on the same page kare mára kwí tyare naxa “doing good may cause evil”. Elsewhere in LVS qui or quí is used for suppositions (see below); see also the discussion under Neo-Quenya.

In LVS Tolkien also mentioned a negative uncertain particle kéla “maybe not” which was used with counterfactuals (PE22/158). Presumably this could be used in more ordinary uncertain phrases as well: *kéla túlas “he may not be coming”.

Suppositions: Conditionals are when one action results from another, but not all conditionals are uncertain. If one action is the natural or regular result of another, the conditional may not be uncertain at all: “whenever she comes, I make dinner”. A more doubtful conditional might be “if she comes, I will make dinner”, where her coming is not certain. Only this second type of conditional is a genuine subjunctive, involving a hypothetical or supposed condition and its probable result.

In EQG of the 1920s, mai was used for “if” in conditionals, but it required a particle of uncertainty like ki or nai for hypotheticals/suppositions:

“If” is expressed by mai; nai or ki are usually in apodosis [the result clause], as: mai ni·tule, tu·tulil “if I come (generic), they come (generic)” [not uncertain] … but naturally rarer [in the future tense] because only possible in a definitely prophetic utterance: mai ni·tuluva, tu·tuluval “whenever I come, they will come” … [vs.] mai ni·tuluva, tu·tuluval ki “If I come, (fut.) they will come” (PE14/59).

In this example, mai ni·tule, tu·tulil is really the equivalent of “when I come, they come”, and future mai ni·tuluva, tu·tuluval must be prophetic because it means they will always come when I come. In the conceptual framework of EQG, genuine hypothetical require ki in the result clause: mai ni·tuluva, tu·tuluval ki = “If I come, they will come”.

In QVS of the 1940s, however, the suppositional particle/conjunction qe “if” alone was enough to express hypotheticals when combined with the future tense:

The difference between the patterns: “if he asks me, I shall come”; “if he asked/were to ask me, I should come”, was not expressed [as] in English, in which the curious use of the past form with regard to the future is derived from a past optative that Quenya never possessed. The first simple pattern is expressed as in English: qe e·kestan, ni·tuluva. The aorist is used in the conditional clause since the aorist has no special time reference and qe alone marks the clause as hypothetical. The future can, however, in Quenya be used also after qe: qe e·kentuvan, ni tuluva. The latter is more nearly equivalent to “when he asks me”: it is more particular: “if on some future occasion he asks me, then on that occasion I shall come” (PE22/120).

Thus in QVS, qe + aorist followed by a future clause is the normal formation for hypotheticals (qe e·kestan, ni·tuluva) similar to English (“if he asks, I will come”). But where both clauses are in the future, then the outcome is a more natural result of the condition, albiet necessarily uncertain because it is in the future: qe e·kentuvan, ni tuluva “(lit.) if he will ask me [in the future], I will come”. This entirely future facing expression can be made less certain by combining qe with the QVS uncertainty particle ai:

The second, more “remote”, pattern is expressed in Quenya (as far as the equivalence goes: the correspondences are not exact) by ai + qe with the future. “If he asked me/were to ask me, I should come” aiqe e·kestuvan, ni·tuluva (PE22/120).

It seems that aiqe in aiqe e·kestuvan, ni·tuluva emphasizes the improbability of the future event, and requires the use of the future in the conditional clause as well as the result clause. On the other hand, the use of non-emphatic qe is possible but abnormal in factual conditionals like “if she comes, I make dinner”, where the more normal pattern is to use words like “when(ever)”:

Note in general statements where there is no real supposition (although a second event is conditioned by a previous one), i.e. when “if” is really equivalent to “when, whenever”, then in Quenya qe is seldom used. It is possible to say qe (ai) e·tule, (san) inye tule yú; qe (ai) e·tulle, (san) inye tulle yú “if/when he comes, I come too; if/when he came, I came too”. But usually “when, whenever” are used: í, iqa, illume, iqallume. qa ette tule, (san) inye tule ”when(ever) he comes, Í [emphatic] come” (PE22/121).

The normal use of “when” in such expressions was true in EQG from the 1920s as well, at least for future expressions:

… but naturally rarer because only possible in a definitely prophetic utterance: mai ni·tuluva, tu·tuluval “whenever I come, they will come”. Here yan “when” [vs. mai “if”] is more usual (PE14/59).

In the 1960s, we have few explicit descriptions of conditionals, and the examples are confused by the fact that Tolkien seems to have vacillated between qui “if” (LVS, 1969) and “if” (e.g. in the “Ambidexter Sentence” from around the same time). Leaving aside the ké/qui vacillations, the basic formula for hypotheticals seems to be the same in the 1960s as it was in QVS from the 1940s: conditional “if” + aorist followed by the future in the result clause: ké tulis, tanome nauvan “*if he/she comes, I will be there” (VT49/19).

The final form of the Ambidexter Sentence from 1969 uses “if” with the past tense, however: ké mo querne kendele númenna, ve senya, i hyarma tentanë Melcorello “if one turned the face westward, as was usual, the left hand pointed away from Melkor” (VT49/8). This resembles the late 1940s example from QVS where qe “if” is used like “when”: qe e·tulle, inye tulle yú “if/when he came, I came too” (PE22/121), indicating that such expressions remained valid in the 1960s. Perhaps “when(ever)” would be more normal though, as in:

Result clause markers: In QVS Tolkien mentioned a fourth particle en which seems to function like English “then” as an (optional) head for the result clause:

The particle en “in that (future) case” can be also inserted: en ni·tuluva (PE22/120).

Thus in QVS qe … en seems to be equivalent to English “if … then”, but en was optional: qe e·kestan, (en) ni·tuluva “if he asks me, (then) I will come”. There are other example uses of en with counterfactuals later in QVS (PE22/122), as discussed in the section on Counterfactuals, below.

Tolkien seems to use another word for “then” in QVS, san, though it is unglossed. The same word reappears in EVS2:

Both en and san appears appear in QVS, and are thus probably part of the same paradigm. If so, they may both mean “then” but with slightly different nuances. As en is glossed “in that (future) case”, perhaps en = “then” as in “subsequently” (as in what event follows) and san = “then” as in “consequently” (as in what are the consequences).

Counterfactuals: Tolkien did not address counterfactuals (hypotheticals known to be false) in EQG from the 1920s, but he did discuss the topic in QVS from the late 1940s:

In the past tense the possibility of wish or supposition known to be “unreal” arises; and the patterns if he asked me, I came; when/if he (had) asked me, I came are naturally differentiated from if he had asked me, I should have come; I wish he had asked me; would that he had asked me! (PE22/121).

The first example is a factual conditional in the same category of “if/whenever she came, I made dinner” (as described above) but the second is a counterfactual, in the gist of English “if she had come, I would have made dinner”, implying that she did not actually come. In QVS counterfactuals were formed as follows:

The “unreal” patterns are in Q., which never developed inflexional subjunctives or conditionals, expressed as follows. The particle ai is used in the conditional clause, usually joined to qe “if”, in the latter en “in that case” is used with or without ai (PE22/121).

The combination aiqe seemed to function like an “emphatic if” where the conditional clause is known to be false. Tolkien gave the following examples:

The counterfactual formula here seems to be the “emphatic if” aiqe + past in the conditional clause, followed by the perfect in the result clause, headed by an optional conjunction en (= “then”) + yet another (optional) uncertainty particle ai. The significance of the perfect in the conditional clause isn’t; there are other examples where both the counterfactual conditional and result clauses use the past tense (see below).

The unreal nature of the counterfactual can be emphasized by adding a negative expression to the conditional clause:

It was also possible to add in the conditional clause, immediately after the verbal expression, the appropriate negative verb … aiqe e·kestanen ela en ni túlie “if he had asked me (he did not), I should have come” (PE22/121).

Of the negative expression ela (“he did not” with a prefix subject e- “he”) Tolkien said “This is a form showing no tense since e.g. ela is then an alternative for ela kestane (or whatever other verb is used)”.

Finally, a more “wishful” counterfactual can be expressed using the remoter particle of uncertainty au:

In wishes, or in conditions where the unreality was specially marked the “remoter” particle auve, au was substituted for aiqe, ai (and the negative verb was not used) … auve e·kestanen, au ni·túlie “if he had asked me, I might have come” (PE22/121).

The first clause can be used by itself as a sort of “counterfactual optative” of something the speaker wished had been true, even though it was not: auve e·kestanen (ela!) “would he have asked me!”, again with optional ela = “he did not”.

Tolkien described a similar scenario in EVS2 from the early 1950s (PE22/139) and gave a few more examples (without glosses), except the word for “if” seems to have changed from qe >> quī and the negative expression from ela >> las “it was not” with suffix -s “it”, along with the switch from pronominal prefixes to suffixes elsewhere in the phrase:

Tolkien revisited counterfactuals again in LVS from 1969, using a more emphatic variant of the conditional qui “if” from the same document:

quī or quīta is used when (a) supposition is known to be not in accord with fact, as in “if he had come (as he did not), I should have welcomed him”, or “if you had not returned (as you did), I should have been angry”. quī(ta) la tuldes, náne marie (nin) “[if he had not come,] it was well to me (I was glad)”, or quenten tulil márie (nin) “I said ‘you come happily (for me)’ ”. The unreality can be more explicitly expressed by insertion of “may be”, into a negative protasis or kéla “maybe not”, into a positive. quíta kéla tuldes, quíta (PE22/158).

This is also very similar to QVS except (a) the emphatic counterfactual “if” was quí(ta) and (b) the (still optional) negative expression was kéla, inserted before the verb rather than after (though order may not be significant). Also of interest is that a positive marker of uncertainty apparently can be be added to a negative condition: *quíta lá tuldes ké, náne marie (nin) = “If he had not come (as he did), it would have been well for me”. Note that Tolkien marked through this entire paragraph (PE22/158 note #81) though why he rejected it isn’t clear.

Verb Tenses in Counterfactuals: All the attested examples of counterfactuals put the conditional clause in the past tense, but the result clause appears in both the past and perfect tenses:

Perhaps like English, any of past + past, past + perfect and perfect + perfect are possible. The semantic distinctions, if any, seem to be small.

In QVS Tolkien also said that counterfactuals in the present tense were also possible, albiet rare:

In the present true “unreal” conditions are rarer. But cf. English: “if I were doing this now (as I am not), he would be doing it too”. This is naturally expressed in Q. as in the past, but with the present (not aorist) tense: aiqe ni káraza (nila) san ette kára(za) yú (PE22/122).

Remember that in QVS subject pronouns were prefixed, so ni kára-za = “I am doing this” and ni-la = “I am not”.

Conditionals and Compound Tenses: In QVS, certain specialized compound tenses were tied to their use in conditional statements:

A rare form, a past future perfect, “I was going to have made”, (a)káriévane is sometimes found, chiefly = “would have gone” in conditional clauses (PE22/105).

Tolkien discussed the use of specialized compound tense in the QVS section on conditionals:

The conditions with future reference can deal with events regarded as more or less contemporary (even if the second is conditioned by the first), or those in which the second conditioned event is markedly subsequent. This is not often noted in Quenya since both events are in the (by nature) hypothetical future, from the point of view of the speaker. But it can be marked, when desired, by using either the perfect in place of the aorist in the if-clause, or the composite future perfect. The future perfect is like the future (above) only used after aiqe where particular events are spoken of with precision (PE22/120).

As examples Tolkien gave:

Tolkien said the first clauses could use the future perfect instead: qe e·kárieva i kirya … (“will have finished”), though his example contradicts his statement that the future perfect could only be used with the “emphatic if” aiqe. Later in the same section Tolkien described the use of other compound tenses with counterfactuals:

Quenya developed more precise “tenses”: perfect, pluperfect, future perfect, future in past etc.: in consequence the tense forms in such unreal past statements could be made more exact if required … The compound tenses usually appeared only in one clause, since they were chiefly used to mark the fact that the supposed action was not only conditional but would have been in time subsequent (PE22/122).

He gave as examples:

  • aiqe e kestanelyanen (ela), en ni·túlie “*if he had asked (he did not), then I [would] have come” [pluperfect + perfect].
  • aiqe e kestanen (ela), en ni·tuluváne “*if he asked (he did not), then I was going to come” [past + past future].
  • aiqe e kestanen (ela), en ni·utúlievane “*if he asked (he did not), then I was going to have come = would have come” [past + past future perfect].

In each example, the tense in the result clause is at a later time than the tense of the conditional clause. As a counter example to the statement that the “compound tenses usually appeared only in one clause”, Tolkien said that phrases like the following sometimes appeared:

Suppositions with Uncertain Results: Not every hypothetical condition would have a certain outcome. Compare English “if she comes, I will make dinner” to “if she comes, I might make dinner”. It seems Quenya expresses such a phrase with particles of uncertainty in the result clause, as seen in a couple of examples in QVS from the late 1940s:

Conceptual Development: In the 1920s and 1940s, Tolkien gave full paradigms for participles of near possibility (“may”), remoter possibility (“might”) and supposition (“if”): EQG ki, nai, mai and QVS ai, au(ve), qe. The uncertainty particles ai and au reappeared in EVS2 from the 1950s, but the particle of supposition “if” underwent a few changes in this document: first que/aique > īte/aite though the exact forms are hard to read (PE22/138 and note #45). One more example added in pencil towards the end of the document seems to use quī “if” instead (PE22/140, note #51).

In currently published material, au does not reappear after EVS2, but ai appears in the Quendi and Eldar essay written around 1960, notably in aiquen “if anybody, whoever” which is transparently ai + quén “person” (WJ/372). The gloss “if any” seems to indicate it might still have been some kind of particle of uncertainty, but whether it had the same meaning as in QVS isn’t clear.

In the late 1960s, Tolkien vacillated on the word for “if”. In notes associated with the “Ambidexter Sentences” written in 1969, the word for “if” was (VT49/8, 19). But in LVS notes written around the same time, the word for “if” was qui, whereas was a particle of uncertainty “maybe” (PE22/158). The LVS notes also gave an example of a “counterfactual if” using quí(ta), in the sentence quī(ta) la tuldes, náne márie (nin) “[if he had not come], it was well to me (I was glad)”. Tolkien says that qui is “simple and unemphatic”, so it follows that quí(ta) is emphatic.

Earlier in the same bundle of documents, however, quí(ta) was used as a particle of uncertainty: kare mára kwí (or kwíta) tyare naxa “doing good may cause evil” (PE22/154). The same page also had as a particle of uncertainty: lá karitas alasaila ké nauva “not doing this may be/prove unwise”. In QVS from the 1940s, au(ve) functioned as both the remote particle of uncertainty and as (one of) the “emphatic ifs” used in counterfactuals, so perhaps and quí(ta) filled the same role in LVS notes as ai and au(ve) did in the late 1940s.

Also in the late 1960s there were a couple impersonal verbs marking uncertainty. In 1967 notes there was the verb eke “may, can; have a chance of” (VT49/20). This was probably connected to as a particle of uncertainty, so perhaps = “maybe” in 1967, “if” in 1968, and “maybe” again in 1969. In LVS from 1969 Tolkien devised a new etymology for the optative particle nai “may be” as a derivative of the root √NAYA = “have opportunity, chance or permission”, and so in origin it was an impersonal verb having to do with possibility (PE22/151). This is at odds with Tolkien’s other etymology of this word as + i = “may it be that”, as affirmed in the semi-canonical song cycle The Road Goes Ever On (RGEO/60).

To summarize, the conceptual development roughly seems to be:

  • Near Possibility (“may”): 1920s ke >> ki >> 1940s ai >> late 1960s .
  • Remote Possibility (“might”): 1920s nai >> 1940s au(ve) >> [?] late 1960s quí(ta).
  • Supposition (“if”): 1920s mai >> 1940s qe >> 1950s ite >> quī >> 1969 qui (LVS) or (Ambidexter Sentence).
  • “counterfactual if”: 1940s aiqe or auve >> 1969 quí(ta) (LVS).

The last “counterfactual if” or “emphatic if” (my terms, not Tolkien’s) overlap in some cases with the particle of remote possibility. Note, however, that we don’t know whether quí(ta) from LVS actually represents remote possibility, only that it is emphatic and is used in counterfactuals: thus the [?] in the developments above.

Neo-Quenya: Putting the above subjunctive elements into a coherent system for Neo-Quenya is a challenge. There is a fairly complete description of the subjunctive in the Quenya Verbal System (QVS) from the late 1940s, but it is clear that Tolkien abandoned most (if not all) the subjunctive particles he used in that document. Only ai reappears in later writing (Quendi and Eldar, circa 1960), and its use as a particle of uncertainty (“maybe”) seems to be replaced by by the late 1960s. As discussed in the entry on indefinite pronouns, I instead recommend using ai in Neo-Quenya as the basis for “any” in words like aiquen “anybody”, [ᴺQ.] ainome “anyplace” and [ᴺQ.] ailume “anytime”.

QVS described a three-fold system of particles: near possibility (“may”), remote possibility (“might”) and supposition (“if”). The question is how to map later particles into this paradigm. LVS provides three major particles with slightly different functions on PE22/158:

  • Possibility (“maybe”): .
  • Supposition (“unemphatic if”): qui.
  • Counterfactual (“emphatic if”): quí(ta).

Earlier in LVS documents quí(ta) was also used as a particle of uncertainty: kare mára kwí (or kwíta) tyare naxa “doing good may cause evil” (PE22/154). Perhaps quí(ta) can do double-duty as both the particle of remote possibility and as the emphatic if for counterfactuals, much as au(ve) did in the 1940s. For clarity, I recommend using shorter quí to mark uncertainty and longer quíta for counterfactuals. Thus:

  • Near Possibility (“maybe, may”): .
  • Remote Possibility (“might”): quí.
  • Supposition (“unemphatic if”): qui.
  • Counterfactual (“emphatic if”): quíta.

Hat tip to Lokyt for proposing this paradigm. It is a bit strange to use qui/quí(ta) for both “if” and “might”, but the root meaning of this word is “suppose”. Perhaps as a conjugation it means “suppose that” = “if” and as an adverbial particle it means “supposedly” = “possible but not likely”. By mapping these 1969 particles into the updated examples from QVS, we can get a complete system of subjunctives. This system is necessarily speculative, however, since it assembles ideas from different conceptual periods.

Following this system, where the speaker doubts the truthfulness of a given statement, particles of uncertainty can be inserted before the verb and function like the English modal verbs “may” and “might”. They can be combined with various verb tenses as appropriate:

  • cé utúlies “he/she may have come”.
  • quí utúlies “he/she might have come”.
  • cé túlas “he/she may be coming”.
  • quí túlas “he/she might be coming”.
  • cé tuluvas “he/she may come (in the future)”.
  • quí tuluvas “he/she might come (in the future)”.

A negative uncertainty can also be expressed by céla “maybe not”, and perhaps more strongly with *quíla. Thus céla túlas = “he/she may not be coming”. It may also be possible to displace the particle of uncertainty elsewhere in the phrase, as in túlas cé “he/she is coming perhaps”.

Simple conditional statements where one thing is a natural or regular result of another are not genuinely subjunctive. They use conjunctions like “when” or “whenever”: yá tulis, carin ahtumat “when she comes, I make dinner”; quiquie tulis, carin ahtumat “whenever she comes, I make dinner”. Less frequently the word qui “if” can be used in such cases as in qui tulis, carin ahtumat “if she comes, I make dinner”, but this is practically synonymous with “when”. More usually unemphatic qui is used with true hypotheticals, where the conditional clause is uncertain but the result clause would naturally follow should the condition come to pass. In such cases the conditional clause is generally in the aorist and the result clause is in the future, much like English: qui tulis, caruvan ahtumat “if she comes, I will make dinner”.

Just as English can use “if … then” to more clearly mark the conditional versus result clauses, Quenya can use qui … en where en = “in that future case”: qui tulis en caruvan ahtumat “if she comes then I will make dinner” The conjunctions san can also be used, but it emphasizes the consequential nature (san = “thus”) rather than the sequential nature (en = “then”) of the result: qui tulis san caruvan ahtumat “if she comes thus I will make dinner”. Probably these conjunctions can be also be used with factual conditionals: yá tulis, en/san carin ahtumat “when she comes, then I make dinner”. Regardless, en and san are optional, much like English “then”.

If both clauses are in the future, the phrases becomes more deterministic in the sense that it describes expected future occurrences and their outcomes: qui tuluvas, (en) caruvan ahtumat “if/when in the future she comes, (then) I will make dinner”. If the result of the condition is itself uncertain, various particles of uncertainty can be added to the result clause: qui tulis, cé caruvan ahtumat “if she comes, I may make dinner”; qui tulis, quí caruvan ahtumat “if she comes, I might make dinner”. As above, the particle of uncertainty might be displaced to the end of the phrase: qui tulis, caruvan ahtumat cé “if she comes, I will make dinner perhaps”.

You can formulate hypotheticals for unknown activities in the present as well, using the present tense for both clauses: qui túlas, (en) verurya túla yú “if she is coming, (then) her husband is coming too” or qui túlas, cé verurya túla yú “if she is coming, maybe her husband is coming too”.

Hypotheticals in the present or future may yet be revealed as true, but hypotheticals set in the past are generally for things known not to have happened (counterfactuals). These require the more “emphatic if” in the form quíta. English requires a subjunctive modal verb like “would” in the result clause it emphasis it “unreality”, but Quenya does not. The conditional phrase is generally in the past, and the result phrase may be in either the past or the perfect:

  • Past + past: quíta túles, carnen ahtumat “if she came, I would make dinner”.
  • Past + perfect: quíta túles, acárien ahtumat “if she came, I would have made dinner”.

If the “unrealness” of the conditional phrase needs to be emphasized, an uncertainty particle of the “opposing negativity” may be added to the conditional clause: céla if the clause is positive but if the clause is negative. Thus: quíta túles (céla), acárien ahtumat “if she came (she did not), I would have made dinner”; quíta lá túles (cé), anaien raica “if she did not come (she did), I would have been angry”. Likewise, uncertainty particles may be added to the result clause: quíta túles, cé acárien ahtumat “if she came, I might have made dinner”.

Normally both clauses in conditionals use the same temporal frame even though the result necessarily follows its condition, but if the temporal sequence of actions needs to be emphasized, differing verb tenses may be used. This generally requires a compound tenses like the pluperfect or the past future (perfect). Possible formulations include:

  • Pluperfect + Perfect: quíta túlienes, acárien ahtumat “if she had come, I [would] have made dinner”.
  • Past + Past Future: quíta túles, caruvanen ahtumat “if she came, I would make dinner”.
  • Past + Past Future Perfect: quíta túles, acáriuvanen ahtumat “if she came, I would have made dinner”.

In the first example, the conditional is in the distant past, and the result is in the less distant past. In the last two examples, the conditional is the past and the result is in the future relative to that past (but still before the present). The past future perfect acáriuvane of the last example is so specialized it is almost never used outside of conditionals. It is similar to the English formation “would have made”, which is technically a past form of the future perfect formation “will have made”. The difference is that in English the formation “would have made” is the only one allowed, while in Quenya the simple perfect is probably more common, though it does not emphasize the sequential nature of the actions as much.

Finally, the counterfactual conditional clause by itself may be used as a sort of “counterfactual optative” of past things the speaker wishes were true, even when they weren’t: quíta túles “if only she had come!”.

Speak, Friend!