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Was or Were

 
 
tycoon
 
Reply Wed 19 Jan, 2005 07:20 am
"If I were collecting fines, I'd be rich already."

Isn't "was" the correct choice?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 2 • Views: 1,455 • Replies: 12
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Phoenix32890
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 Jan, 2005 07:27 am
No, "were" is, because it is conditional. For instance, you would say,

"If I were king".

"He was the king in the 17th century".


Quote:
If she were coming, she would be here by now. I insist that the chairman resign! Their main demand was that the lawsuit be dropped. These sentences all contain verbs in the subjunctive mood, which is used chiefly to express the speaker's attitude about the likelihood or factuality of a given situation. If the verbs were in the indicative mood, we would expect she was coming in the first sentence, the chairman resigns in the second, and the lawsuit is dropped in the third.


http://www.bartleby.com/64/C001/061.html

I find that "was" or were", for me, is one of the most difficult grammar constructions with which I am faced. I would like a dollar for every time I have edited a "was" to a "were" on A2K.
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tycoon
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 Jan, 2005 07:54 am
Thank you Phoenix! I weren't sure so I thought I'd ask. :wink:
0 Replies
 
Phoenix32890
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 Jan, 2005 08:04 am
Rolling Eyes :wink:
0 Replies
 
CalamityJane
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 Jan, 2005 09:45 am
Ha, I always wondered about that too.
Only if it's conditional than you use "were" - that's good
to remember.

Now what's the formula for "these" and "those"?
0 Replies
 
Noddy24
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 Jan, 2005 10:06 am
"These" are the ones close by. "Those" are the ones over there.
0 Replies
 
Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 Jan, 2005 11:10 am
Conditional is not the criteria, conditional + hypothetical is the criteria.

Consider:

"If I was rude to you I apologize." = real possibility

"If I were a woman I would have breastacles." = hypothetical
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CalamityJane
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 Jan, 2005 11:14 am
Oh, now I get it. Thank you Craven and Noddy! Smile
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flyboy804
 
  1  
Reply Wed 19 Jan, 2005 02:16 pm
Craven's explanation is correct and describes the reason for many errors. An example I like to use:
"If John were there he would have passed the information to James"
(John wasn't there so James didn't get the information.)

"If John was there he passed the information to James."
(We don't know whether or not John was there, so we don't know whether or not James received the information.)
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Thu 20 Jan, 2005 09:27 am
It's not a conditional, it's subjunctive.

Conditional: "I would collect fines"
Subjunctive: "If I were to collect fines" or "Were I to collect fines"

The conditional is almost always found in tandem with the subjunctive:
Example: "If I were the king of the forest (subjunctive) I would be brave (conditional)."
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CalamityJane
 
  1  
Reply Thu 20 Jan, 2005 09:57 am
It get's confusing, doesn't it Wink
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JTT
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Jan, 2005 04:20 am
either was-were for counterfactuals
CalamityJane wrote:
It gets confusing, doesn't it Wink
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JTT
 
  1  
Reply Sun 30 Jan, 2005 04:32 am
Craven de Kere wrote:
Conditional is not the criteria, conditional + hypothetical is the criteria.

Consider:

"If I was rude to you I apologize." = real possibility

"If I were a woman I would have breastacles." = hypothetical


As Craven correctly notes, sometimes using <was> with <if> creates a meaning that points to a real possibility. But it may well still be hypothetical.

"If I was rude to you" CAN = in the speaker's mind,

I was rude to you OR
I expect I was rude to you OR
I probably was rude to you OR
I may have been rude to you OR
I might have been rude to you

All it's saying, [even where the speaker believes he/she was rude] is, "under the condition that I was rude, something follows"; in this case it's "I apologise".

HOWEVER, the vast majority of uses are counterfactual ones because most often, <if S was ...> refers to the identical counterfactual situation that would be meant by <if S were ...>.
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