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Here, I copied a sentence from a book published by Cambridge Press: ''Nusselt number is the ratio of the actual heat transfer to what it would be if there were conduction but no convection.''

This may be a simple question for you. But I confused about the ''were'' in the subordinate clause and supposed it should be was since conduction is in singular form. Could you please explain this issue? Thanks for your comments.

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This is an example of an "unreal conditional clause".

See:

https://www.grammarly.com/blog/conditional-sentences-was-instead-of-were/

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  • The problem with websites like 'Grammarly' is that they get many things wrong. For instance in the link you provided, they say that If I was a rich man, I would make more charitable donations is wrong. But it isn't wrong -- it's fine. The use of the modal preterite "was" is just less formal than irrealis "were", not grammatically incorrect. – BillJ Sep 21 '17 at 13:13

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