When writing an answer to another question as opposed to commenting (since I lacked in reputation), I was about to write

was I to have enough reputation

when I decided it was incorrect and replaced it with

were I to have enough reputation

but then doubted myself again, wondering if perhaps

If I had enough reputation


If I were to have enough reputation

were correct. Can someone shed some light on which one (or ones) of these are correct in this scenario and how they differ? Many thanks!

  • You should provide the rest of the sentence so we know what full idea you wanted to express. – user139454 Oct 17 '15 at 19:18

Your second sentence is the correct one because you are expressing an "impossibility," loosely speaking. IOW, you would have given an answer IF you had been allowed to do so, but you weren't--so you didn't!

The subjunctive mood (or mode) has fallen on hard times in recent years, but I think its use is still valuable in making clear the distinction between something which is in the realm of impossibility ("If wishes were horses, [then] beggars would ride") and something which is not ("If I was ready back then [which I was], then I'm even more ready now").

You can complicate (unnecessarily) your option two by adding a few words to it:

If I were to have had enough reputation . . .,

which has you looking back in time instead of to the future, which "were I to have" communicates.

The same goes for your option number four, with the addition of the word had after the word have.

Option number four, by the way, is "correct" only when the wished-for action is yet future, not in the past.

I suppose option number one could be "correct" in a very rare situation, as when a person uses the words to ask a question about whether he was or was not allowed to do something:

Was I to have enough reputation in order to participate [or to have participated] in said activity?

The same applies to option three, if you expand it and frame it as a question:

You mean to tell me, if I had enough reputation I would have been able to participate?

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  • Nothing wrong with “If I had enough reputation, I would comment” (#3) in any normal scenario. It's a perfectly straightforward conditional. I don't understand your suggested sentence for #1, though; I can't make it make proper sense. #1 itself is fine in the right context, but the one you've given it won't parse semantically for me. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 17 '15 at 19:30
  • @Janus Bahs Jacquet: Sorry for the confusion. One of the difficulties here is that we do not have the completion of the sentences. Without what would come AFTER the options laid out for us, we're kind of guessing how best to word the first part of the sentence. Feel free to edit my post if you'd like. No offense will be taken. Don – rhetorician Oct 17 '15 at 19:34

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