Shakespeare's plays are replete with both these constructions.

Is were in these constructions equivalent to the modern would?

1 Answer 1


The were in these words is what in most languages is called the subjunctive - conjunctivul in Romanian.

In today's speech, one would simply say "it was best to" and "I was best to".

The subjunctive has almost fully disappeared from English, but there are vestiges: "if I were", "Long live the King", etc.

The function of the now-obsolete subjunctive is not that different from how you use it in Romanian - or any other Latin language.

  • Not really, I can say ce faci and multumesc ;-) I did want to learn it back in the day, but never got to it.
    – Å Stuart
    Commented Jan 24, 2014 at 16:05
  • Brilliant, thanks! :-) Did my answer help?
    – Å Stuart
    Commented Jan 24, 2014 at 16:10
  • Ahh, sorry, I was just rephrasing your two examples, I've corrected it now - the first one was meant to be "it was best to"
    – Å Stuart
    Commented Jan 24, 2014 at 16:29
  • That'll be lovely, I'll look it up but can't promise to come back right away - I can be quite bad with emails. But would love to, cheers.
    – Å Stuart
    Commented Jan 24, 2014 at 16:37
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    I disagree; in today's speech, one would say it would be best to or I would do best to. The subjunctive was replaced by the use of auxiliary verbs, not by the indicative (except in the construction "if it were", which is being replaced by "if it was"). Commented Jan 24, 2014 at 20:24

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