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“If I was” or “If I were”. Which is more common, and which is correct?

Should I say "If I were [something]" or "If I was [something]?"

This came up because I am writing a comment above a function in some code. Here's the comment, basically:

// Shuts down everything
// Will stop the process if it was running
function Shutdown()

So should that say "if it was running" or "if it were running?"

Also, why?

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marked as duplicate by b.roth, RegDwigнt, Robusto, Kosmonaut Jan 21 '11 at 18:06

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Thanks, I was having a tough time searching for "if." Go ahead and close. – Mag Roader Jan 21 '11 at 15:30

In your specific case, neither 'was' nor 'were' is best; you should say "if it is running".

"If it were running" is subjunctive case, used to describe hypothetical situations: "If it were running, I would stop it first, but it's already stopped."

"If it was running" is a common corruption of subjunctive case, or, as described in the other questions, a way to express an option that occurred in the past. In this case, using a continuous-action verb feels inappropriate; a discrete-action verb would fit better: "If it was started, then we need to stop it."

Since you are describing a possible situation that exists in the present, though, the present tense is best. "If it is running, stop it."

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