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79 votes
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When to use "If I was" vs. "If I were"?

SYNOPSIS: Sometimes it must be “if I was”, but at other times it can be “if I were” — and for some speakers in those cases, perhaps even must be “if I were” in their idiolect. Sentences with the ...
tchrist's user avatar
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13 votes
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Leo DiCaprio pretended he was a doctor or "he were" a doctor?

The subjunctive is slowly disappearing from use and it isn't used with pretend here. Leonardo DiCaprio pretended [that] he was a doctor. or, terser and better, He pretended to be a doctor. He ...
lly's user avatar
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6 votes

Leo DiCaprio pretended he was a doctor or "he were" a doctor?

As Xanne says, go with "pretended he was" or "pretended to be." The criterion of "hypotheticality" is by no means sufficient to warrant the use of "I/he/she/it were." In modern English, these forms ...
herisson's user avatar
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5 votes
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Has “if I was” be­come gram­mat­i­cally cor­rect in a south­ern US di­alect?

This question is the stuff grammar wars are fought over. Personally, I don't think I've ever heard anyone say "if I were", and I've lived all over the US except the south. The lay idea being, you ...
Azuaron's user avatar
  • 327
4 votes

Can I use 'I wish I were there' in this situation?

I wish I were there is grammatically correct and I wish I were be there isn't, since you shouldn't have two main verbs just sitting next to each other that way. You've mixed it up with would be or ...
lly's user avatar
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4 votes
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Conditional clause

Only backshifting, not subjunctive Reduce it to its most straightforward word order, and the answer will become clear: I realized that active contemplation would be needed if I ?were to find any ...
tchrist's user avatar
  • 135k
3 votes

Shakespeare’s Subjunctive

If it were done, when ‘tis done, then ‘twere well it were done quickly Shakespeare has beguiled another victim with his wordplay. Macbeth is saying that he hopes this will solve all of his problems. ...
Robusto's user avatar
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3 votes

Why ”were” and not “was” in “and e’en to tell it ᴡᴇʀᴇ no easy task”?

This is an archaic use of the subjunctive. It may have been somewhat archaic even 200 years ago. It means to tell it would be no easy task. If he had written to tell it was no easy task, it ...
Peter Shor 's user avatar
3 votes

When to use "If I was" vs. "If I were"?

First things first. When you're talking about a real situation, you should stick to either: (1) If I was... [for the past time] Or: (1') If I am... [for the present or future time] When ...
JK2's user avatar
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3 votes
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How do I correctly determine realis vs irrealis or indicative vs subjunctive in this sentence?

I stared at him to see if he was just a cartoon character. The sentence above has a clause which looks like a conditional adjunct: if he was just a cartoon character If this was indeed a ...
Araucaria - Him's user avatar
3 votes

"not sure whether it WAS" vs. "not sure if it WERE"

In third-person past-tense singular subjunctive, you use were to describe an unreal or imaginary scenario that didn't happen in the past. You might say, If the other car were moving faster, I ...
RaceYouAnytime's user avatar
2 votes

Subjunctive questions

Whether or not you use the subjunctive in English depends on more than whether something is "non-factual". Certain verbs can take the subjunctive and others can't, even though their meanings may seem ...
Peter Shor 's user avatar
2 votes

Which is grammatically correct: "if someone was starving" or "if someone were starving"?

"if someone was starving on an island" This denotes the factual condition of whether someone was at an earlier time starving. "if someone were starving on an island" This denotes a hypothetical, ...
Zebrafish's user avatar
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2 votes
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"If you be my love” vs. ”If you were my {love}"

Your first sentence could not be in the 19th c. as it includes words and expressions that were not used then. Such as 'girlfriend' and 'cheat on'. I looked up 19th c. songs, because I thought they'd ...
Jelila's user avatar
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2 votes

Hello I’d like to ask if my grammar is correct! We’re having fun last night!

It's not correct. We're = "we are" (present tense), and "last night" shows you need a past tense. There is no contraction for "we were". You might see or hear "we're" used for "we were", even by ...
Owain's user avatar
  • 1,187
2 votes

Conditional clause

I realized that this issue needed more active contemplation, were I to find any closure. The sentence is fine. It’s a conditional construction where the protasis has the form of an ungoverned content ...
BillJ's user avatar
  • 13k
1 vote

“Would + Verb” vs. “Were to + Verb”

In standard English, the choice for plain conditionals is between If they offered me this job ... and If they were to offer me this job ... . They're both correct, but aren't quite the same;...
Peter Shor 's user avatar
1 vote

Conditional from past perspective: "They realized that if X WAS . . ." or "They realized that if X WERE . . ."?

I agree with alphabet's comment that the question is about tense. Let's put the sentences into the present tense, as statements which are going to be reported: We realize that if the threat is not ...
Andrew Leach's user avatar
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1 vote
Accepted

Can Irrealis 'Were' Be Used in the Past Tense?

Though there is no 'past tense' of irrealis were (CGEL contrasts present, preterite and irrealis as different categories on p.75), for a past situation, it can be used with the perfect. "The ...
DW256's user avatar
  • 9,086
1 vote
Accepted

What mood is "if I were" in?

TLDR: The mood of were in “If I were you” is either irrealis or subjunctive (past tense), depending on which grammarians you listen to. There is a battle over terminology currently going on among ...
Peter Shor 's user avatar
1 vote

Subjunctive Mood in Past Tense, Historical, Narratives

To maintain the subjunctive and use the past tense in this case (while keeping the same wording of were), you have to add several verbs in the first part of the sentence, as well as changing the ...
Jason Bassford's user avatar
1 vote
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Irrealis “were” following “as if”

“He seems as if he were spell-bound,” construed as counterfactual? It seems to be the case - this is not the same as "it is the case". "as if he were" approximates to "that he might be" The speaker ...
Greybeard's user avatar
  • 42.3k
1 vote

“if our photographer was” or “is” or “were”?

If I am not mistaken, the correct conjugation of the verb is 'were'. This is a case of the subjunctive mood, now rarely used in Modern English. To clarify, the subjunctive mood indicates a state of ...
Cesco's user avatar
  • 80
1 vote
Accepted

"If I am to pick a favourite" or "If I were to pick a favourite"

"If I were" is correct because you are talking about hypotheticals. "If I was" is incorrect unless you are making conditional ("if A is true, then B must be true") statements. If I was at the bank at ...
Jonathan Joseph Chiarella's user avatar
1 vote

What does the expression "If + subject + was/were + infinitive" mean in American English

Thanks to @tchrist, I'm convinced that this is just a “be + infinitive“ periphrastic construction. In this case, The construction "If + subject + was/were + infinitive" is used to talk about ...
CryptoBird's user avatar
1 vote

What does the expression "If + subject + was/were + infinitive" mean in American English

The subjunctive mood is used to describe a situation that is hypothetical or imaginary. The most common way to spot the subjunctive is when a sentence starts with if. In all your examples, you would ...
David DeMar's user avatar
1 vote

Confusion about "Past Real Conditional"

The first part of that sentence sketches a condition ("if..."), the second part the action. There is no reason to assume that "that" refers to both the condition and action. We do not know anything ...
JJM Driessen's user avatar
1 vote

Leo DiCaprio pretended he was a doctor or "he were" a doctor?

Here are the hold-over usages of subjunctive that I'm aware of in English: "If he were a doctor, he'd know what 'pneumothorax' means." Here 'were' and 'he'd' (he would) are "past-tense" subjunctives, ...
Timothy Bostick's user avatar
1 vote

Past subjunctive Vs. Present Subjunctive

As user62235 suggested, the idea that "were" represents the past subjunctive is questionable. The modal use of "were" in conditional sentences is sometimes called the irrealis "were" to distinguish ...
Yeltommo's user avatar

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