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SFX Magazine had declared the sentence below as follow: 1) STAR TURN, 2) BEST LINES.

  • I wish Bernard Cribbins was my grandad. Perhaps he would be willing to adopt?

  • Rattigan: “If only that was possible.”
    The Doctor: “If only that were possible. Conditional clause.”

Is 'was' after 'I wish', 'if only' and 'if' (in conditional clauses) colloquial?

Does it be used in formal speech and writing?

share|improve this question
Wrong? I don't understand. What is wrong with them? – Matt E. Эллен Apr 1 '12 at 19:27
@Matt - It is what I ask to me. Something is wrong because the sentences are reported (SFX Magazine) in an article that give verdicts ironically. – user19148 Apr 1 '12 at 19:32
@Matt Эллен - After Irene's answer, I have rephrased the question. Now it is more consistent. – user19148 Apr 1 '12 at 19:55
As an aside, the irony in the lines you cite doesn't lie in any grammatical mistake. In the first one the joke is that people can't adopt grandchildren, although he wishes they could. In the second one I believe the fact that a correct sentence is corrected in a pedantic manner constitutes the funny part. – Irene Apr 1 '12 at 20:13
@Irene - You are so kind! What do you think of rephrased question? Is it more consistent for you, at least? – user19148 Apr 1 '12 at 20:40
up vote 3 down vote accepted

There's nothing wrong with the sentences you write. Some people (I believe teachers among them) consider the use of the form was after I wish, if only and if (in conditional clauses) colloquial and claim that it shouldn't be used in formal speech and writing. The "correct" form to use is were. The language, however, has its own dynamics and is used regardless of the rules imposed.

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What 'some people . . . teachers among them' never seem to realise is that rules are derived from the way language is used, and not the other way round. – Barrie England Apr 1 '12 at 20:05

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