Liv­ing my whole life in Arkansas in the United States, I’m cer­tain that if I were is never used by lo­cals. In­stead, phrases like if I was and you was and they was have all re­placed their equiv­a­lents in other re­gions.

I’ve heard these so of­ten that I think it’s nec­es­sary to ask if they are gram­mat­i­cally cor­rect as a part of a south­ern di­alect. Does their ap­pear­ance in a cer­tain re­gion as ac­cept­able ex­cuse their ap­pli­ca­tion in for­mal writ­ing?

Per­son­ally, I in­deed be­lieve that any­thing not found in generic, “ac­cent-free” ar­eas should not be con­sid­ered cor­rect. But of­fi­cially within a south­ern U.S. di­alect, are these con­struc­tions gram­mat­i­cal?

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    What does "officially within a southern US dialect" mean? What officials are involved in deciding this?
    – Drew
    Commented May 17, 2017 at 19:56
  • By official, I mean "is it okay, because it's a dialect?" or is it still incorrect whether it's commonplace or not. Commented May 18, 2017 at 13:10
  • 1
    OK to whom, in what context? Primarily opinion-based.
    – Drew
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 14:15
  • 1
    Can you please name a single generic, "accent-free" area in the US, in the world? Commented May 18, 2017 at 23:23

1 Answer 1


This question is the stuff grammar wars are fought over.

Personally, I don't think I've ever heard anyone say "if I were", and I've lived all over the US except the south. The lay idea being, you would say, "I was a king," not, "I were a king," so why should you say, "If I were a king," instead of, "If I was a king"?

This is called the "subjunctive mood" and is used to indicate that the statement is untrue or wistful. "If I were..." or "I wish I were..." are the typical structures for "subjunctive mood" statements.

So, is it now grammatically correct to dispense with the subjunctive mood? That's a matter of opinion, but if you ask most people they'd probably say, "What's a subjunctive mood?" If I was braver, I would voice my preference.

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    I wonder if this is the kind of thing where you tend to hear it like you say it, regardless of what other people actually say? I use if I were (native AmE speaker), and I just realized I've been singing Megan Trainor's song Me Too (and hearing her sing it in my head) that way for months, even though she actually uses if I was you.
    – 1006a
    Commented May 17, 2017 at 20:06
  • 2
    Textbook answer. So nice to spot a little bit of humor/humour creeping into the last sentence of your answer. Commented May 18, 2017 at 9:12

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