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Was versus were

 
 
Reply Tue 20 Nov, 2007 04:21 pm
The bus turned over.

1. None of the passengers were hurt.
2. None of the passengers was hurt.

Which is correct, 1 or 2?

Thanks
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 2,176 • Replies: 7
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contrex
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Nov, 2007 04:42 pm
Either. Do you wish to say that not one passenger was hurt, or do you wish to say that all of the passengers were unhurt?

"None" can be either singular or plural, depending on context.

None of my classmates were alive after the earthquake. (I am the only member of my school class to survive the earthquake.)

None of the boys was brave enough to climb the tree. (Not one of the boys was brave enough to climb the tree.)

Old grammar books may tell you that "none" is singular, but the Oxford English Dictionary says that, when acting as a pronoun, the denotation of "No people" is "Now the commoner usage, the singular being expressed by no one."
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kickycan
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Nov, 2007 04:54 pm
Ooh, I'm interested in this thread. I never know when to use "was" and when to use "were."

I hope this doesn't derail the thread too much, but...

"If I 'were' a rich man." Could it also be "If I 'was' a rich man?" Does it matter?

The "was" vs. "were" deal is one of the most confusing things for me in the english language.
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tinygiraffe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 Nov, 2007 05:24 pm
actually the difference is vital in political debates, contrex is right that you can use "was" in general, but if you're going to criticize american policy, it's important to use "were" or your argument will fail.

needless to say it's great to see this thread.
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contrex
 
  1  
Reply Wed 21 Nov, 2007 12:46 am
kickycan wrote:
"If I 'were' a rich man." Could it also be "If I 'was' a rich man?" Does it matter?


No, it cannot be "if I was a rich man". It matters in proper writing and if you are taking tests or exams. In informal speech and the writing of ignorant people it is often ignored.

Before, we were using the simple past tense. "None of the passengers was hurt", for example.

However, the phrase "if I were a rich man" uses the past subjunctive. We use the subjunctive to refer to past situations which might (or could) have happened.

The past subjunctive is identical with the past tense except in the case of the verb be, which uses were for all persons: If I were rich …, If he were rich …, If they were rich….

The past subjunctive is sometimes called the were subjunctive, since were is the only subjunctive form that is distinct from the indicative past tense. It appears chiefly in if clauses and in a few other constructions expressing hypothetical conditions:

If he were sorry, he'd have apologized by now.

I wish she weren't going away.

She's already acting as if she were going to be promoted.

Suppose she were to resign, what would you do then?
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Wed 21 Nov, 2007 08:19 pm
kickycan wrote:
"If I 'were' a rich man." Could it also be "If I 'was' a rich man?" Does it matter?


contrex wrote:

No, it cannot be "if I was a rich man". It matters in proper writing and if you are taking tests or exams. In informal speech and the writing of ignorant people it is often ignored.


I'm afraid, Contrex, and I say this with no rancor, that the ignorance here is yours.

contrex wrote:

However, the phrase "if I were a rich man" uses the past subjunctive. We use the subjunctive to refer to past situations which might (or could) have happened.


The subjunctive form 'were' is NOT used "to refer to past situations which might (or could) have happened". This form, as in your example, "if I were a rich man" refers to, in this case, a timeless situation which is the counterfactual of "I am not a rich man".

The form using 'was' as in, "if I was a rich man" is identical to the subjunctive 'were' form in every way with the exception of formality.


+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

JTT wrote:
CalamityJane wrote:
It gets confusing, doesn't it Wink



http://www.able2know.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=43642&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=10
0 Replies
 
contrex
 
  1  
Reply Thu 22 Nov, 2007 12:42 am
Sorry JTT, but the ignorance is mostly yours. Your copy and paste job is mostly opinionated American English blog stuff.
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JTT
 
  1  
Reply Thu 22 Nov, 2007 10:28 am
contrex wrote:
Sorry JTT, but the ignorance is mostly yours. Your copy and paste job is mostly opinionated American English blog stuff.


"mostly". At least you're starting to come around, Contrex. Smile

The "blog" was not a blog. It was another A2K thread on the same issue.


The opinion,

"No, it cannot be "if I was a rich man". It matters in proper writing and if you are taking tests or exams. In informal speech and the writing of ignorant people it is often ignored.".

came from you, Contrex. Why would you believe such a thing?
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