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December 16, 2007


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A real good explanation.
Thanks Jennie.

Tom L.

A really good explanation, rather.

Swami X

Thank you. Clear and simple. If i learned this way in school I could of been a contender...instead of a bum...which is what I am ("On The Waterfront") I'm guessing it should be, "I could HAVE been a contender but..."


Being from the Netherlands, it's still confusing to me in the following case;
'What if I was like you are' or 'What if I were like you are'.
WAS sounds better to me -as a song lyric- then WERE.

What is the right form in this case?

Thank you.

Link Building

I like the explanations. Such a tough subject to understand.
Rene - I think with song lyrics you can get away with anything! :-)


Good explanation, but don't you also use "were" instead of "was" with "I" when the situation is not an impossibility but is conditional, such as in the sentence, "If I were to go with you, I would need to be home by ten"?


thank u for the explanation i needed it for my english exam!!!

Johnathan Reinbrecht

One question:

"If I was famous I would be very childish."
"If i was rich I would buy a nice car."

let´s take that example, is it really impossible for me to be famous, or rich?
what if it isn´t? I mean, now the debate should be about what is possible
or impossible, I like your explanation but it leaves out this question
Considering nothing is impossible until proven so I guess If i was should be
taken as the correct form of it.

Please, I´d like to know more about this... In Canada we do NOT use "If I were"...


Thank you for the explanation. I know we were (?) supposed to learn our grammar in grades school but I do not remember them. Even though I am trying to refresh them now, most explanations were so technical and used the language I was trying to get explained to explain to me. Thanks again.


I never knew about the subjunctive mood until I learned Spanish...
In Spanish, the automatic translation/rule is "Si yo fuera..." = "If I were..."

This entry is only explaining the subjunctive mood with the infinitive "to be" in the past [was/were]
Maybe you should talk about the general rule for employing subjunctives with other verbs as well...


Thank you very much. I never knew the proper way to use "if i were" and "if i was." I was always confused. Now, it totally makes sense!!!!

Bob N

Does this only apply to situation where "I" is the subject? For example: If the technology was/were simple, everyone would use it. This entire article, though easy to understand, only gives examples using "If I were..." Thanks.


How about this tricky blighter:
would it be correct to rephrase
"If there were a better school nearby, would you think we should move here?"
"If there were a better school nearby, should we move here?"

Roger Perry

You write:
"When you are supposing the impossible, however, you use a plural verb, were, with the singular I, like this:
If I were a rich man, I'd see my wife, my Rosie, looking like a rich man's wife."

In this usage, "were" is not plural; it is the singular past tense of the subjunctive: I were, you were, he/she/it were. So your statement quoted above is wrong: both "I" and "were" are singular. See Sir Ernest Gowers: ABC of Plain Words, HMSO, London 1951

As for Utternonsense's post (March 09, 2010), both sentences are correct; they have differdent meanings , of course.


I really liked this explanation. :)


This helped me help a student with a very specific question about this. Tevye's wife was Golda, by the way.


If I were... sounds pretentious and archaic to my modern ears. English is always changing to fit the times. Thank you for your article.

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