In a comment signed by Martha, she wrote that:
"If I was an airline pilot" and "If I were an airline pilot" have different meanings. The latter is the subjunctive case (and presumably what most people mean, even if they say the former). The former is talking about the past tense - "if I was an airline pilot 10 years ago..."
The comment above received 8 upvotes, and this confused me. Somewhere out there, are at least 9 people who hold the same view on this usage. I can't "see" how the sentence: "If I was a pilot 10 years ago" is speaking about the past.
The sentence begins with "if" which means the speaker is thinking and talking hypothetically, imagining a situation which is unreal. He or she being a pilot never happened. Now I would understand the number of upvotes if (ha!) "was" had been said to be informal and "were" considered to be grammatically more acceptable, (especially if one were to sit an English exam or submit a paper) but to say it expresses a past tense?
My natural inclination is to write: If I had been a pilot 10 years ago. But in this case the speaker is still hypothesizing in the present about an unreal, and no longer possible situation.
Am I wrong??