by Jennie Ruby
How many times have you heard someone say "If I was you"? In some regions of the country, you might hear it every day. This popular expression, however, is grammatically wrong. The correct grammar is "If I were you."
The correct use of were in this expression is an example of the subjunctive: the use of an unusual verb form to indicate that there is something iffy about what is being said. If I were is used to indicate that you are supposing either something that is known to be untrue or something that is impossible.
Here are some examples of supposing the impossible or untrue. All of these are in the present tense:
- If I were walking on the moon right now...
- If I were a fly on the wall...
- If only Superman were here...
- If I were a rich man...
Past: If I was at work last Tuesday when the shipment arrived [I might have been--I just can't remember], I did not sign for it.
Past: If she was the one who left her keys here, she will be back. [It is quite possible that she did leave her keys here.]
Present: If the cat is hiding under the bed, watch out for your ankles. [But: If the cat were a tiger, you'd have a lot more to worry about.]
Future: If I am selected for the new job position, I will make sure we all get raises. [I am actually being considered for the new job, so I am not supposing the impossible.]
Are you an eLearning developer who has been tasked with creating an effective voiceover script? If so, consider attending my Writing Effective eLearning Voiceover Scripts class. Click here to learn more. I also teach the Writing Training Documents and eLearning Scripts class. You can learn about that here.