I have been practicing my English reading skill for a while. I try to read news article from various sources. Lately, I found this article (link: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/10/stop-forcing-journalists-to-conceal-their-views-from-the-public/247571/) and I could not understand a specific sentence. That sentence is

Were I an opportunist, I'd be salivating at the recent news from NPR, which is now on record with the precedent that it is unacceptable for the host of an opera show to participate in Occupy Wall Street.

I haven't seen this kind of structure before. It will be helpful if someone can explain me this sentence to give me better understanding.

Thank you very much!

1 Answer 1


"Were I an opportunist" means the same as "If I was an opportunist".

This phrasing ("Were I" to express a hypothetical situation in which the author is an opportunist) is called the subjunctive or subjunctive mood, and additionally, it's the past tense (the author is imagining himself/herself as already being an opportunist when he/she heard the news story). The English verb be is unique in that it's present subjunctive and past subjunctive are different.

Thanks for asking this question. I didn't realize until I started looking into it that the subjunctive form of be is so odd.

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