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ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > Was vs were    

Was vs were



arathai
Malaysia

Was vs were
 
Hi all teachers,


I would like to ask why we have to use if I were a boy is stead of if I was a boy?  From what I ´ve learnt if I were a boy or if I were rich will explain if it ´s only our imagination so we use were . But why Justin bieber ´s says if I was your boyfriend ",in stead of if I were your boyfriend.And we only use for pronoun I only is it?What about other pronouns like SHE,He, and etc.

Thanks

13 Aug 2012      



cunliffe
United Kingdom

It ´s the subjunctive and can be used with all pronouns, but it doesn ´t make any difference if it ´s ´you ´ or plural they, as it is ´were ´ anyway. There isn ´t really much subjunctive in English, unlike French. To be honest, even this usage ´If I were... ´ is dying out and it ´s only older or self-consciously educated (!) people who use it. The only time you really hear it is when people say, ´If I were you ´ + a bit of advice. So,´ if I was your boyfriend´, is OK.

13 Aug 2012     



ueslteacher
Ukraine

One of the textbook by the mainstream esl publishers we use had this variant "If I/she/he/it was..." so it ´s colloquial and commonly used.
Sophia

13 Aug 2012     



almaz
United Kingdom

I reckon the main reason why ´was ´ and ´were ´ are interchangeable is because the ´were ´ form isn ´t actually subjunctive* at all - it ´s what is sometimes known as the irrealis, an isolated mood form which is a hangover from an earlier system. The acceptable alternative nowadays is the preterite was - and I wouldn ´t say it was particularly colloquial.


*To the best of my knowledge, all subjunctives are plain forms anyway: they don ´t, for example, inflect or have negative forms, unlike ´were ´ (weren ´t).

13 Aug 2012     



cunliffe
United Kingdom

http://www.englishclub.com/grammar/verbs-subjunctive.htm

13 Aug 2012     



almaz
United Kingdom


13 Aug 2012     



cunliffe
United Kingdom

Hi almaz, what a diatribe! Whoever wrote this needs to lie down a bit, but they are certainly self-consciously educated! Irrealis? I thought it was a constellation. WinkLOL

13 Aug 2012     



almaz
United Kingdom

Yeah, Geoff Pullum must be "self-consciously educated". He ´s only the Professor of Linguistics at Edinburgh University, among other things (see here).

Oh, and he ´s written a few things as well - including the odd grammar book (see here).

Remind me who writes the ´grammar ´ page for English Club.

To be honest, Lynne, I thought Pullum was remarkably restrained in his blog. Wink

Irrealis is a constellation (something which is remote and not real anyway). LOL

13 Aug 2012     



cunliffe
United Kingdom

You win this one, Alex Clap. Nice to have you back, by the way. Your inimitable style was a real miss. 

13 Aug 2012     



douglas
United States

Sounds like a pretty smart guy--guess that´s why he opted for the US citizenship Big smile

13 Aug 2012