I'd rather you buy or I'd rather you bought (grammar question)

I’m traveling at the moment and the other day I heard a British man telling his female companion to buy something else. I’m pretty sure his words were: “I rather you buy something else.” I was confused for a minute. I said to myself: Maybe there’s an alternative way of saying ‘I’d rather you bought’ in the form of ‘I’d rather you’d buy’ and I’ve never heard of it, and the guy dropped the d’s. A minute later I forgot all about it. Today I remembered it when I visited SDMB and saw the following statement: ‘I rather her say it sooner.’

What is going on with this structure? Has it become irrelevant and I should simply ignore it? Or should I go back to school?

Isn’t this just another case of people ignoring the subjunctive? The subjunctive is on its last legs and has been for decades.

“I rather her say it sooner” should be “I rather she say it sooner, though.”

I would think losing the 'd is wrong, as it takes away from the future part of “I would.” “I would rather she buy” then makes more sense, I would think.
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Using would here is not about the future anyway–it’s about affect, or unreal condition.


Normally, whenever the term “subjunctive” comes up on this board I usually just give up, because people are so confused about what it means that there’s no point in even participating. (They confuse it with unreal conditionals, because one form of subjunctive is used for one type of those conditionals, but otherwise, they’re not the same thing.)

However, I think some uses of subjective will never go away (The judge ordered that the defendant be detained, etc.)

And the case of the OP is not so much that it’s ignored, but being substituted with unreal conditional, (i.e., past form of the verb). Switching to the past is a common (and useful) way to be more deferential. E.g.–employee to supervisor:
I was wondering if I could have tomorrow off. . .

The original quote was “I’d rather you buy something else”, though, so what was being substituted? Isn’t this a bog-standard present subjunctive?

Responses in a previous thread indicated that the English subjunctive mood is moribund in the UK but still commonly used in American English, so it’s interesting that the speaker of this honest real-life sentence was British.

To me, saying ‘bought’ implies a past or current action; saying ‘buy’ implies a continuing future action, like changing the brand of some product that you commonly buy for the household.

First, I don’t see buy as only connoting future actions. I’d say people use buy for immediate actions all the time. Second, the use of the present for the future is so common in colloquial speech I’m not sure how you’d be able to separate the two. Third, isn’t the buy in “commonly buy for the household” not future in any way?

You could make a case either way, but in Britain, the subjunctive is gone and they don’t even recognize it in my experience with an English copy editor. On this side of the pond I could go either way. But the subjunctive is certainly alive and well in my ideolect.

I would say that “I’d rather you had bought” implies the past or current condition.

“Buy” suggests to me a current or future action. “Had bought” suggests to me a past action.