Thursday, May 25, 2006

Was vs. Were


Can you help me with the change of "if I WERE you" to "if I WAS you"? Recently I have been seeing both was and were in ESL book when referring to I, but with 3rd person singular I'm only seeing was -- as in "if he WAS a woman ..." Was is always "was" or has there been a shift lately?

— Thanks, Amy

Dear Amy,

If we were you, we'd want to stick with the traditional grammar rules. Then, the worst someone could accuse us of being was stuffy.

You can really go hog-wild reading about the subjunctive mood, which is what you're describing in your question. Or you can take the cheater-pants way out. SPOGG likes cheater-pants. They're washable and don't require starch and an iron.

If you're talking about something that's most likely not true (if I were you, for example), use were. But if you're talking about something that could well be true (if your husband was the fine man he claimed to be), then you'd want to use was.

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