if i were vs if i was

Reply Thu 11 Mar, 2004 08:20 pm
Although I've read somewhere that "If I were...." was the gramatically correct one, I was still abit confused when thay also said that there were exceptions to the rule. One that involved subjunctions, but I wasn't too sure what they meant. Could someone clarify these exceptions? Thanks!
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Reply Thu 11 Mar, 2004 08:34 pm
"If I were... " is already in subjunctive form. I'm also interested in hearing the exceptions.
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Reply Thu 11 Mar, 2004 09:31 pm
Exceptions? Were there any such exceptions, i'd certainly be surprised. My advice is not to worry about it. Most people are unaware of the existence of the subjunctive, let alone know when they're using it. Reasonably well educated people these days use the "wrong" verb forms constantly--the use of the subjunctive is almost dead in the American language. Can't speak for the English--anyway, they're too far away, they wouldn't hear me.
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Reply Thu 11 Mar, 2004 09:54 pm
"If I was" is correct if it is not definitely a statement contrary to fact. example: If I was there I was so drunk that I don't remember. In other words you don't know one way or the other.
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Reply Thu 11 Mar, 2004 10:04 pm
Good point, flyboy.
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Craven de Kere
Reply Thu 11 Mar, 2004 10:38 pm
This is how you differentiate between use of "If I was" and "If I were".

Both are conditional. When you wish to imply real possibility you use the proper conjugation of the verb (e.g. "If I was").

When you wish to convey a hypothetical you use "were".


If I was mean to you I apologize.

This denotes real possibility.

If I were a hairy beast I would scratch my ass all day.

This is a hypothetical.

Note the format. The hypothetical uses were/would verb in this tense.

More examples:

R = real possibility
H = hypothetical

Present (R= verb/verb. H=were/would verb)

H: If I were you I would trim that nose hair.
R: If I am hungry I eat.

Past - almost all conditionals in the past are hypothetical (R= verb/verb* H= past participle/would have verb*)

R: I I saw her I didn't recognize her.
H: If I had been born a woman I would have been a nurse.*

Future (R= verb/will verb* H=verb/would verb*)

R: If I see him I will kick him in his testicles.
H: If I live to be 100 I would be very surprised.

*Note: you can change the frame of consequence to teh conditional (e.g. If I had been X I would BE Y).

R: If you didn't understand this, let me know.
H: If you were an ESL teacher, you would have to explain this quite often.
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Reply Fri 12 Mar, 2004 10:08 am
Excellent reply Craven de Kere . Very Happy
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Reply Fri 12 Mar, 2004 04:25 pm
Thank you Craven! That is one of the countless bits of grammar I have forgotten, and it has been bugging me!
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Reply Tue 16 Mar, 2004 06:27 am
thanks again. if i were an ESL teacher, i would go nuts answering such questions. if i was driving you nuts, then i believe that you really are an ESL teacher.
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Reply Tue 30 Mar, 2004 10:51 pm
The subjunctive mood
I love the subjunctive mood, although I am not always clear on when it should be used. I know that if it expresses a wish, you'd use it ("I wish I were 20 again.") There is also another facet to the subjunctive mood: using "be." According to one of my books, Woe is Me, it says:

Use "be" instead of "was" or "were" after someone suggests, demands, asks, requests, requires, or insists that something be done.

For example:

The judge ordered that I be excused.
Olivia insists that she be admitted free.
The law requires that he be fingerprinted.

Just my two cents' worth.

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Reply Fri 2 Apr, 2004 06:37 am
These days, people don't care if I were or if I was or even worse if I am. Mr. Arafat likes to use ' if I am ' Smile. I hear him speak so on TV many times.
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