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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.

marked as duplicate by Edwin Ashworth, TimLymington, AndyT, sumelic, user66974 Sep 21 '17 at 18:39

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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/

  • 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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