I am helping my friend with a story that is written in the past tense, and I've hit a snag with their uses of conditional and subjunctive. I could have sworn that I learned that you use "was" instead of "were" for at least one of these things when writing in the past tense, but I can't find any information about this exception now. Am I totally off-base, or am I getting conditional and subjunctive mixed up with some other grammatical form?

For reference, here are two examples:

  1. Peter called softly to the cat, as if he was wooing a fussy toddler.
  2. Julia angrily reminded Peter that if he wasn’t such an incorrigible gambler, maybe he would’ve had enough money to go to Florida himself.

I originally thought that "was" was correct for these sentences, but now I'm concerned that I may have been wrong.

  • 1
    You will encounter both in the wild. Are you aspiring to a particular register?
    – phoog
    Jul 24, 2021 at 23:43
  • Did you look up conditional and subjunctive forms? Jul 24, 2021 at 23:52
  • On the nonexistence/unhelpfulness of an English "subjunctive", see here
    – lly
    Jul 25, 2021 at 0:58
  • 1
    As you'll see in the duplicates, there are people for whom using was in both those cases is ungrammatical. If you were taking a test in school that was specifically testing to see whether you knew that in formal registers those would be written were, then you would have gotten those two test questions "wrong". But this is hardly universally observed by all native speakers in all places and occasions throughout the world. Academic or literary prose is not the same as barnyard or barroom talk.
    – tchrist
    Jul 25, 2021 at 0:58
  • Off-topic, in the 2nd sentence I myself would add a comma between that and if or remove the current comma. Of course there are people who would write it the way it is, so you could consider that part of the register issue as well.
    – lly
    Jul 25, 2021 at 1:45