If you want to talk about a possibility or something you would like to be different you can say "If I were taller", "If you were faster". You use the verb in past tense. Is it correct?

But what about the following?

If this app worked in this way, I would like it more.

I don't know but the above sentence sounds kind of weird for me. I don't know if it's correct or not.

  • 2
    That's OK, because it's past tense form with counterfactual meaning; it presupposes that the app does not work "in this way", and suggests an imaginary implication in the absence of this fact. It would be interesting to me -- as a linguist -- to find out what parts of this sentence sound weird to you, and if possible why. Commented Nov 18, 2013 at 1:55
  • Thank your for you early reply, I found it helpful. I just go used to using were in those kind of situations but I never needed to use it with a verb different than to be. As an spanish speaker I get confused when using past tense in a situation that actually never occurred. There's is a specific way of conjugating the verb in this kind of situation. Commented Nov 18, 2013 at 2:08
  • 3
    @JohnLawler He’s looking for something that’s morphologically distinct as a way of expressing counterfactuality, but finding it lacking in all verbs save be. Specifically, he’s looking for how to express what Spanish uses the imperfect subjunctive inflection (“Si funcionara/funcionase en esta manera...”) for in the protasis of a conditional, and the conditional inflection (“...me gustaría mejor”) in the apodosis. Some people do say “If only it worked” or “If it were to work” to try to convey that, but we really have no morphological solution beyond be — as well you know. He misses it.
    – tchrist
    Commented Nov 18, 2013 at 2:14
  • @tchrist Yes, that's exactly what I wanted to say. Thanks for explaining it properly. Commented Nov 18, 2013 at 2:23

1 Answer 1


You are talking about conditional statements.

The first phrase is using the past subjunctive ("were"). Your clause is setting up a type of sentence called the "second conditional" or a counterfactual conditional.

The second is the same type of sentence, and it's correct.

Here are some helpful articles on wikipedia:

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_conditional_sentences
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conditional_sentence#Types_of_conditional_sentence
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counterfactual_conditional

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