When, googling for a specific meaning of something, the first click sends one off into the woods of interesting topics that are irrelevant to the original question, there comes a moment one realises this.
This mentally brings up the question ‘What [was|were] I looking for?’ This use (subjunctive mood) of ‘to be’ might be a special case as the actual search (ie. for relevant information) did not start.

What was I looking for

What were I looking for

Is this observation correct or do the two sentences mean completely different things? (I’m a non-native speaker)

  • 1
    I can't imagine any situation where I would say "What were I looking for?" There is no subjunctive mood involved. PS you may not be aware that our other site English Language Learners is the best place to look for answers on English questions that a fluent speaker would find trivial. If you have a question for ELL, be sure to read their guidance on what you can ask. :-) – Chappo Jan 12 at 11:22
  • Thank you for the prompt solution to my question and for kindly referring to ELL; indeed I was not aware. Should I delete my question from this site? – user1789266 Jan 12 at 12:03
  • If you ask the question on ELL, then yes please delete it here. – 9fyj'j55-8ujfr5yhjky-'tt6yhkjj Jan 12 at 14:20
  • Welcome to EL&U! I would've said the search has started, you have simply not found any relevant information yet. If I search for a pair of shoes in my wardrobe, I may find an old book or some decorations (i.e. non-relevant results), but have nevertheless began searching for my shoes. – A Lambent Eye Jan 12 at 14:23
  • @sumelic Mea culpa. I just thought about this some more and I admit being in error. (I have deleted my previous comments.) While What things was I looking for sounds utterly wrong to me, and I would rephrase the sentence to never use it, What things were I looking for is ungrammatical. You are right that the verb follows the subject—not the object number. I just find the syntactically correct version here to be so unidiomatic to me that it had originally sounded worse and thrown off my reasoned logic. Thank you for calling me out on that. – Jason Bassford Jan 13 at 0:09

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