Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Because I am still in New Haven, I would prefer [it] if the meeting [would be/was] postponed.

What is the correct way of saying this? I am curious as to with or without it, and would be versus was?

share|improve this question

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

"I would prefer it if the meeting were postponed." Here's where you need the subjunctive mood to express a hoped-for or hypothetical outcome. More here if you need it.

If you want to delete "it," then you have to revise slightly: "I would prefer that the meeting be postponed."

share|improve this answer
    
Thanks for the link –  Frank Apr 27 '11 at 15:52
1  
To make sure I understood it: would the following be correct use of the subjunctive? "I would prefer that the meeting take place without me." –  Frank Apr 27 '11 at 16:05
    
Bingo. Same as in "b" in the second example above. –  The Raven Apr 27 '11 at 16:29

The traditionally super-formal standard usage is one you left out, "I would prefer if the meeting were postponed." Were is the singular past subjunctive.

Almost no one uses this in contemporary US spoken English, and it's probably dying out of writing. More contemporary usage is still past subjunctive, which has come to be identical to past indicative: "I would prefer if the meeting was postponed." The conditional, would be, isn't standard in an if-clause.

Cf: The meeting would be postponed if he arrived late, but he isn't arriving late so it will go on as scheduled.

share|improve this answer
2  
In recent studies of the matter, the consensus is that the subjunctive is alive and well. –  The Raven Apr 29 '11 at 2:02
    
Hmm, interesting. Who's studied this and reached this conclusion? –  CynicallyNaive May 6 '11 at 23:02

You have two good answer already, both technically sound, but here is how I would phrase it.

I would prefer to postpone the meeting because I am still in New Haven.

share|improve this answer

protected by RegDwigнt Oct 27 '13 at 12:58

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.