mailing list For webmasters
Welcome Guest
As if it was/were ? If I was/were to ? Options
Vassilev
Posted: Thursday, July 9, 2009 4:19:08 AM
Rank: Member

Joined: 7/9/2009
Posts: 29
Neurons: 87
Location: Malaysia
1) If I were to quit smoking, would you marry me?

2) If I was to quit smoking, would you marry me?

Someone told me that 1) is used in American English while 2) is used in British English. Is this true? Can someone provide me with an answer substantiated with grammatical evidence?



A) He gave up on the task, as if it were impossible.

B) He gave up on the task, as if it was impossible.

For this one I think B) is correct? Because "the task" and "it" are a singular nouns and "was" is a past tense for singular nouns?
juangaspar
Posted: Thursday, July 9, 2009 8:38:49 AM
Rank: Newbie

Joined: 7/9/2009
Posts: 7
Neurons: 21
Location: Mexico
"Was" and "were" are interchangeable after "If I/he/she/it". There is no difference in meaning though "were" is more formal and is a subjunctive form on the verge of extinction. You can refer to almost any grammar book in the section on conditionals. Check out the Longman English Grammar by L. G. Alexander, for example.
arthbard
Posted: Thursday, July 9, 2009 10:45:52 AM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 3/26/2009
Posts: 63
Neurons: 189
Location: South Carolina
Vassilev wrote:
1) If I were to quit smoking, would you marry me?

2) If I was to quit smoking, would you marry me?

Someone told me that 1) is used in American English while 2) is used in British English. Is this true? Can someone provide me with an answer substantiated with grammatical evidence?



A) He gave up on the task, as if it were impossible.

B) He gave up on the task, as if it was impossible.

For this one I think B) is correct? Because "the task" and "it" are a singular nouns and "was" is a past tense for singular nouns?

You've got the basic idea right. "Was" is singular. "Were" is plural ... But, "were" is also appropriate when you're stating something that's contrary to fact or isn't certain to occur. "If I were smoking," for example, insinuates that I haven't quit smoking, so in this case, "I were" is correct. This is referred to as the subjunctive mood.

So, in the second example, I'd say A is probably correct, since the implication seems to be that the task is not impossible. He simply gives up as if it were.

However, some sources I looked at do say that this is more common in American English than British English, so there may indeed be a difference in usage. Hopefully, someone who's better versed in British English than me will be able to clarify.
Vassilev
Posted: Tuesday, July 21, 2009 5:11:59 PM
Rank: Member

Joined: 7/9/2009
Posts: 29
Neurons: 87
Location: Malaysia
Ah... the subjunctive mood... explains a lot... thank you both for your answers =)
Can top
Posted: Thursday, August 6, 2009 12:52:17 AM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 8/5/2009
Posts: 35
Neurons: 117
Location: Canada
Vassilev wrote:
1) If I were to quit smoking, would you marry me?

2) If I was to quit smoking, would you marry me?

Someone told me that 1) is used in American English while 2) is used in British English. Is this true? Can someone provide me with an answer substantiated with grammatical evidence?



A) He gave up on the task, as if it were impossible.

B) He gave up on the task, as if it was impossible.

For this one I think B) is correct? Because "the task" and "it" are a singular nouns and "was" is a past tense for singular nouns?


As juangaspar noted both are used in both BrE and AmE and both normally hold the same meaning, either counterfactual or doubtful. 'were' is the subjunctive form but 'was' does the same job, again, in most situations.

In
Tomahawk71
Posted: Monday, April 18, 2011 4:22:36 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 1/7/2010
Posts: 421
Neurons: 123,003
"And if his early prophecies were confirmed, my heart is gladdened and my honor rejoices that in their time his later prophecies too will be fulfilled."

So, his early prophecies were confirmed or not?
Why did the author use "is" here instead of "would"?Liar
Babezy
Posted: Monday, April 18, 2011 4:51:06 AM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 10/16/2009
Posts: 926
Neurons: 2,806
Location: United States
In AE, the subjunctive is used to show that something is hypothetical or unlikely, and plain past tense shows that you're discussing something that did happen or that stood a good chance of having happened. It's easier with examples:

If I were a fairy queen, I'd live in a tulip.

Was that you in the red coat last night?

As for the early prophecies quotation, I think it's confusing for our examples because "prophecies" is plural. In this case I think the author is using plain past tense. If you changed it to "prophecy," it would be:

--And if his early prophecy was confirmed, my heart is gladdened...

To return to my example above, it would be like saying, "If that was you in the red coat last night, I am glad you made it to the performance." See what I mean? You're suggesting that it's entirely possible that it was your friend in the coat (or that the prophecy was confirmed) and that if so, you're now happy about it.
Romany
Posted: Monday, April 18, 2011 5:08:00 AM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 6/14/2009
Posts: 17,740
Neurons: 57,489
Location: Brighton, England, United Kingdom
The rule quoted by Babeezy (the subjunctive is used to show that something is hypothetical or unlikely....etc.) pertains also in BE.

However, in spoken English - whether BE or AE - a significant number of people use "was" instead of "were" and, in fact, eschew the subjunctive completely.
Tomahawk71
Posted: Monday, April 18, 2011 6:42:32 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 1/7/2010
Posts: 421
Neurons: 123,003
Babezy wrote:
In AE, the subjunctive is used to show that something is hypothetical or unlikely, and plain past tense shows that you're discussing something that did happen or that stood a good chance of having happened. It's easier with examples:

If I were a fairy queen, I'd live in a tulip.

Was that you in the red coat last night?

As for the early prophecies quotation, I think it's confusing for our examples because "prophecies" is plural. In this case I think the author is using plain past tense. If you changed it to "prophecy," it would be:

--And if his early prophecy was confirmed, my heart is gladdened...

To return to my example above, it would be like saying, "If that was you in the red coat last night, I am glad you made it to the performance." See what I mean? You're suggesting that it's entirely possible that it was your friend in the coat (or that the prophecy was confirmed) and that if so, you're now happy about it.


Thanks for your replies.

So the author does not know if the prophecy of that prophet was confirmed or not. If the prophecy was confirmed sometime in the past, when the author somehow learns that it was confirmed, he will be happy in the present time.

Is that right? Or correct me if I am wrong please.
Romany
Posted: Tuesday, April 19, 2011 7:17:33 PM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 6/14/2009
Posts: 17,740
Neurons: 57,489
Location: Brighton, England, United Kingdom
Lektem - I think you probably posted your last response to the wrong thread? But, if it's the one about the Prophet, then, yes, I rather think you could draw that conclusion.
rogermue
Posted: Friday, February 5, 2016 2:00:34 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 1/28/2012
Posts: 5,045
Neurons: 34,900
Location: München, Bavaria, Germany
Hi, Romany, I'm looking for a grammar or a website where they say that the subjunctive "were" after
"as if" can be replaced by "was" (as a substitute for the subjunctive) in colloquial language.
Juanggaspar hinted at the Longman/Alexander grammar above, but Alexander has only the genuine subjunctive
"were".

Added: Ah, I found something in Google Ngrams. They confirm that "as if + were" can be replaced by
"as if + was". In written language "were" is more frequent, but I guess that in colloquial language
"was" is the normal thing.

Google Ngrams

Users browsing this topic
Guest


Forum Jump
You cannot post new topics in this forum.
You cannot reply to topics in this forum.
You cannot delete your posts in this forum.
You cannot edit your posts in this forum.
You cannot create polls in this forum.
You cannot vote in polls in this forum.