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“If I was” vs. “If I were”

“If I was the Prime Minister. ...” said Ed Miliband, British Labour party leader, today, Sunday 24th September 2011. Is this not how to phrase it if it remains a possibility that he was once Prime Minister, or if he is not sure if he was, or is reluctant to admit it? 

“If I were the Prime Minister, ...”, using the subjunctive mood of the verb, would suggest that he is not Prime minister but is about to tell us what he would do if he were the PM. If the subjunctive is now defunct in UK Labour politics, as I suspect, how did he continue to tell us what he would have done, if he were the PM, without using the subjunctive? “if I was the PM, I ~~~~~ ???” It cannot be done.

  • September 25, 2011
  • Posted by Brus
  • Filed in Style
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Another example of how "common usage" leads to deterioration and debasement of the language.
Anyone with an education from a decent UK school will tell you that of course the correct form is "If I were".
The classic example is the song "If I were a rich man" from the musical "Fiddler on the Roof".
Unfortunately, because of "common usage", it appears that "If I was" is now acceptable.
A pox upon it.

Hairy Scot September 25, 2011, 9:14pm

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I don't think it needs an education in a decent UK school, just a decent school - German and Danish friends do not get this wrong when speaking in English, because they have been taught the English version of their own languages' subjunctive forms for use in closed conditional clauses (putting forward an impossible hypothesis), such as "if I were you". I cannot imagine having heard 'if I was ...' used by anyone using English as a second language. Americans get this one right too. It seems almost a deliberate ploy to suggest such things as "if I was you" when used by a British public figure, with what motive? The answer is evident.

Brus September 26, 2011, 4:29am

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My idiolect doesn't make any difference in meaning between

If I was the Prime Minister, I would change the law.
If I were the Prime Minister, I would change the law.

I know that both sentences are counterfactual, since the form of "be" is in the past tense, and the main clause has "would". I'm not sure how this variation is evidence of deterioration.

In fact "be" is the only verb that has a special form for the counterfactual. With ever other verb, we use the simple past, for instance:

If I lived in Paris, I would visit the Eiffel Tower.

Writers have been using "was" and "were" interchangeable for about 300 years: http://books.google.com/books?id=2yJusP0vrdgC&a...

goofy September 26, 2011, 9:08am

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I do not know which writers have been using 'was' and 'were' interchangeable (sic) for all those 300 years, but I like your neologism "ideolect", which my dictionary, like me, is too old to include. So too "counterfactual". I shall check them on Google in a few minutes. They have never seen the light of day in any of my language lessons, nor in the textbooks I have used.
Your point about verbs other than 'be' is well taken. The problem with the English subjunctive is that its conjugation is so much like that of the past indicative, it is really only with the rare irregular verbs such as 'be' that its different form is apparent. As it is apparent it is easy to notice it, learn it and use it, so use it!
"If I was a rich man", as quoted by a contributor, sounds obviously plain wrong because it is plain wrong. English dialect maybe, but it is not standard English.

Brus September 26, 2011, 2:39pm

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Neither "idiolect" nor "counterfactual" are neologisms. They are common words round my way. Anyway, please read the MWDEU entry I linked to.

goofy September 26, 2011, 2:43pm

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Both idiolect and counterfactual appear in OED but, strangely, counterfactual does not appear in Chambers.
(I am typing this in Google Chrome and counterfactual is flagged as a spelling error.)

Hairy Scot September 26, 2011, 5:52pm

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OK, I found idiolect on Google dictionary, and its definition shows that "my idiolect" means that you personally choose to say "If I was ..." for 'counterfactual'. That does not mean you should.

I still maintain that to say "If I was the prime minister" means you can't remember if you were, or don't want to own up to it. To say "If I was there" allows the possibility that you were indeed there.

Brus September 27, 2011, 4:37am

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The subjunctive was drilled into my head, when I was a kid, by that old commercial that went "I wish I were an Oscar Meyer wiener".

cnelsonpublic September 28, 2011, 10:21am

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Good one, "I wish I were .....". Now, why is it "I thought I was ...." but "I wish I were ...". One is for fact, the other for non-fact. (Or "counterfactual" to cite a contributor.)+
Students of English as a second language are keen to learn these details, others treat them as an affront. Shame on the others, I say!

Brus September 28, 2011, 3:19pm

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Good one, "I wish I were .....". Now, why is it "I thought I was ...." but "I wish I were ...". One is for fact, the other for non-fact. (Or "counterfactual" to cite a contributor.)+
Students of English as a second language are keen to learn these details, others treat them as an affront. Shame on the others, I say!

Brus September 28, 2011, 3:19pm

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Good one, "I wish I were .....". Now, why is it "I thought I was ...." but "I wish I were ...". One is for fact, the other for non-fact. (Or "counterfactual" to cite a contributor.)+
Students of English as a second language are keen to learn these details, others treat them as an affront. Shame on the others, I say!

"I think I am..." v "I wish I were ...", This time the verb in the main clause (wish/think) are in the present tense. - uh, this time the explanation is harder: both think/wish introduce maybe yes or no subordinate clauses. So why not "I wish I am" or "I think I were"? Even more clearly, here the wishing suggests doubt (subjunctive 'I were') and the thinking suggests certainty (indicative 'I am').

Not so hard after all, hey?

Brus September 28, 2011, 3:55pm

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If I was the Prime Minister, I would change the law.
If I were the Prime Minister, I would change the law.

Don't both of these sentences refer to unreal present events? If I can't remember if I was Prime Minister, I would be talking about a past event. I might say:

If I had been the Prime Minister, I would have changed the law.
or
I can't remember if I was the Prime Minister.

The whole sentence determines whether the event is counterfactual, not just the verb.

For people who make a distinction between these two sentences, what exactly is the difference?
If I was the Prime Minister, I would change the law.
If I were the Prime Minister, I would change the law.

goofy September 29, 2011, 6:12am

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@goofy
The difference lies in the use of subjunctive vs indicative as stated by Brus.
Perhaps a better example is:-
"If I was a hopeless cad, I apologize."
"If I were a hopeless cad, I would never apologize."

Hairy Scot September 30, 2011, 2:13pm

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Perfect Pedant
It seems to me that "if I was" can only lead to ambiguity if it is used in the same context as "if I were". If my two sentences really do have different meanings, then there is room for confusion, and I'd like to know exactly what the difference is.

Your sentence "If I was a hopeless cad, I apologize" refers to a past event, so it's not the same context as my examples.

Would you ever use "if I was" in exactly the same context as "if I were"? Would you say this:
"If I was a hopeless cad, I would apologize."

goofy September 30, 2011, 2:23pm

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If I was ... I would ... has one indicative verb (was: factual, perhaps) and one subjunctive (were: non-factual, I shall not apologise...) so the simple rule of sequence of tenses: both clauses need to be subjunctive for a closed or non-factual, or both need to be indicative for an open condition, one which may still be fulfilled. When you say "If I was ...I would, it begs another subordinate clause: "If I was ..., I would ...if ...).

This is the same problem as yesterday's one from Mr Tony Blair, former prime minister of Britain, who is quoted as saying "If I was interested in money, I could make much more", which begs the question, in more than one way, leaving us wondering how he could make much more, and when it might have been that he was interested in money, and why not any more. But he is acknowledged as a great orator who does not need any verbs in his sentences, and indeed does not always use them at all, and speaks in the dialect of his intended listeners, which is not necessarily standard English, so we must not use him as a model.

Brus October 1, 2011, 5:01am

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@Brus
We are obviously casting our pearls before swine.
I give up!

Hairy Scot October 1, 2011, 3:20pm

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"If I was the Prime Minister, I would change the law." This to me suggests that I am surprised and doubtful to hear that I was sometime in the past the Prime Minister, find it hard perhaps to believe that such an thing could have been allowed, and if it is true, would want someone to change the law, maybe to prevent such a calamity in the future.
(I have, of course, by the way, no particular prime minister in recent history in mind.)
"If I were the Prime Minister, ..." has a totally different meaning, that I want the law changed and if I could I would, but I can't so I shan't because I am in fact not the Prime Minister.
Which one do you mean?

Brus October 1, 2011, 4:51pm

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"If I was a hopeless cad, I would apologize."
This means that there is a possibility, which I am not yet quite prepared to admit, that I was a perfect cad sometime in the past. I would apologise, but what are we waiting for? We now need to know on what condition, as you have not said "I shall/will apologise, but "would apologise", so you need to go on, saying "if ..." as perhaps "if you were to convince me (that I was a perfect cad).
Complete sentence then:
"If I was a perfect cad, I would apologise if you were to convince me that I was."
This means you don'y think you will be convinced. If you think you will be, then
"If I was a perfect cad I shall apologise if you convince me that I was."

But you don't mean either of these, do you?

Brus October 1, 2011, 5:03pm

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If anyone else were reading this thread they would surely agree with Brutus.

If anyone else was reading this thread, then they have surely stopped by now.

That said, I would have to agree that "counterfactual" is a perfectly good and useful word.

Timbo October 4, 2011, 4:00pm

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Brus, my apologies, I rendered your username incorrectly. I am sorry about that..

Timbo October 4, 2011, 4:03pm

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??

Hairy Scot October 4, 2011, 4:06pm

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Re: “If I was” vs. “If I were”
Perfect pedant:
If I was an ass I am sorry. If I were you I would give up. "If I was.." refers to fact, or possible fact. "If I were..." refers to impossible (closed) condition. I can't be you. But maybe I was an ass.
Timbo: you are right, surely no one else is reading this stuff by now.

Brus October 5, 2011, 3:02am

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@Brus
I have agreed with you all along. It's just that we couldn't convince Goofy.
The use of 'If I was ...." instead of "If I were" is something that makes me cringe.
If I were you I would do as I have done and give up on Goofy.
I have a suspicion that we were being trolled.

Hairy Scot October 5, 2011, 1:27pm

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No, I was sincerely interested in what how you interpret the difference between "was" and "were", since for me, there is no difference. I have heard that for some people, "were" indicates a lower degree of likelihood than "was".

It seems that for you, "was" in a present counterfactual is unacceptable. If you see a sentence like
"If I was a cad, I would apologize."
you interpret it to mean that there is another clause coming. Left as it is, it doesn't work for you.

That's fair enough. However, the fact is that writers use "was" and "were" interchangeably in this context (according to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage). Where there is a difference it seems to be one of register. That is, "were" is more formal.

goofy October 5, 2011, 8:19pm

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Unfortunately Merriam-Webster tends to reflect only what is common or acceptable in North America and is often in conflict with sources outside of that area.
If it were not for that we would probably have less to discuss.

Hairy Scot October 6, 2011, 1:06am

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Goofy
English usage and correct (as you say, formal) English are not the same thing. I started my correspondence with this website suspecting that many misuses of correct English by the British come from North America as here mentioned by Perfect Pedant. My suspicions have not been allayed, confirmed rather!
It is accepted that there are regional dialects and a wonderful thing it is that this is so, of course. Conversations often feature clumsy English, naturally. But when public figures are making gross errors of standard English through carelessness at times when there is a reason to get it right, it is alarming. Are errors in printed headlines, or legal documents, or school textbooks, acceptable? Speeches by politicians? You get my drift.

Brus October 6, 2011, 2:46am

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'If I was a cad' allows the possibility that maybe I was indeed a cad. In that case, if 'I would apologise' is subjunctive, because conditional, it suggests that I would but I am not going to, because a further condition would first have to be satisfied. So:
"If I was a cad, I would apologise for it if you were to persuade me."

Brus October 6, 2011, 2:56am

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Perfect Pendant
"Unfortunately Merriam-Webster tends to reflect only what is common or acceptable in North America"

This is not true. MWDEU quotes equally from NA and UK writers and usage commentators. If there is a difference between NA and UK usage, or between NA and UK usage commentary, they say so.

Brus
"English usage and correct (as you say, formal) English are not the same thing."

You seem to be equating "formal" with "correct". But "formal" doesn't mean "correct", it means "formal". And "informal" doesn't mean "incorrect".

Also, I don't see why you think that "was" for "were" comes from North America. Many of the examples given by Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage are from authors outside of North America: Carroll, Byron, Thackeray, Farquhar.

goofy October 6, 2011, 6:33am

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Merriam–Webster's Dictionary of English Usage is a usage dictionary published by Merriam-Webster, Inc., of Springfield, Massachusetts. It is currently available in a reprint edition (1994), I gather. It is the one which Bob & Bing once sang about, being, like them, Morocco-bound. I reckon it is as American as apple pie.
Now, when a writer uses forms of English other than Standard English, does it mean he doesn't know any better? Or is he ascribing to his characters a bit of a regional dialect, perhaps?
Should you be "done", as we say in Britain, for some heinous crime, would you be happy to be "sent down" for a lengthy prison sentence by a judge speaking, say, in the language of some of the characters from Huckleberry Finn, one of my favourite novels? Or Walter Scott? As long as he had a copy of Webster's among the other tomes lined up on his bench? In such unhappy circumstances I would prefer that the pronouncement be made by someone dressed in formal robes and speaking Standard English. If he were to fail to use the subjunctive where indicated I would lodge an objection, for sure.

Brus October 6, 2011, 7:27am

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MWDEU is a dictionary of standard English, from both NA and the UK. I suggest that you read the preface and introduction:
http://books.google.com/books?id=2yJusP0vrdgC&a...

goofy October 6, 2011, 7:36am

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Have now done so. Cracking good read! I suggest that you use it as your "bible" for US English.

Brus October 6, 2011, 9:56am

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The only true gospel for the English language is the OED, although Chambers is acceptable for those of us who do the crosswords in the quality broadsheets.

Hairy Scot October 6, 2011, 2:43pm

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"'If I was the Prime Minister. ...' said Ed Miliband, British Labour party leader, today, Sunday 24th September 2011. Is this not how to phrase it if it remains a possibility that he was once Prime Minister, or if he is not sure if he was, or is reluctant to admit it?"

As always, pedants attempt to overcomplicate the language. And the English subjunctive is probably one of those aspects of our language that suffers from more schoolmastering than most.

The argument between "if I was" and "if I were" would seem an attempt to put much more nuance of meaning into Miliband's statement than is really there. Whether "was" or "were", the implication is completely clear: "If I was/were the PM [but I'm not]..."

JJMBallantyne November 8, 2011, 3:22pm

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I thought this one had been done to death.
Advocating adherence to the rules and structures of a language is not pedantry.
Have a look at this:-
http://www.englishclub.com/grammar/verbs-subjun...

Hairy Scot November 8, 2011, 3:37pm

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Why is being correct labelled as pedantry?
English is my second language and I find it intriguing that people who insist on correctness are labelled, almost insultingly, as pedants.
Why is this?
What is wrong with expecting the language to be used correctly?
Is it because English is spoken in a number of countries?
Are the errors due to slang or the American usage of the language?
Does this happen with Spanish or French?

Hairy Scot November 8, 2011, 3:42pm

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I am interested in correct usage, but I find it more useful to take "correct" to mean "how good writers actually write", not "how someone thinks I should write". Good writers use "if I was" and "if I were" interchangeably. I have provided a link to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage, which discusses the evidence in detail.

But other people have continued to assert that "if I was" is wrong, simply because they say so. I don't find assertions without evidence very convincing.

goofy November 8, 2011, 3:53pm

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@goofy
"If I were....." formal, written
"If I was ...." informal, conversational
There is a good and detailed explanation here:-
http://www.englishclub.com/grammar/verbs-subjun...

Hairy Scot November 8, 2011, 4:09pm

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As I've already said, "informal" does not mean "incorrect".

goofy November 8, 2011, 4:30pm

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@goofy
Yes, I agree.
But you did say "how good writers actually write".

Hairy Scot November 8, 2011, 4:38pm

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Well to be honest I'm not convinced that the difference is one of formality. MWDEU says nothing about a difference in formality. And the englishclub.com site simply asserts that this is so. In the writing of good writers we find both "was" and "were" forms, sometimes both in the same paragraph.

goofy November 8, 2011, 4:47pm

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I'm wrong; MWDEU does say something about it, although it's nothing conclusive:

"It may seem that was is crowding out subjunctive were in informal contexts, such as the letters and journals among our examples here. But not necessarily:"

...and they go on to cite some examples to the contrary.

goofy November 8, 2011, 4:52pm

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The statement "It may seem that was is crowding out subjunctive were" suggests that there is a difference between "was" and "subjunctive were".
Where does MWDEU state what the subjunctive is, what it means, and how it should be used?
The englishclub.com entry does give a clear definition of that.

Hairy Scot November 8, 2011, 4:58pm

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The MWDEU discusses the subjunctive in detail in the entry I linked to way back at the beginning of this thread:
http://books.google.ca/books?id=2yJusP0vrdgC&am...

goofy November 8, 2011, 5:02pm

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There are a number of discussion forums covering this topic, and the opinions are as varied as those given here.
One example is at:- http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t...

I was taught at school that the subjunctive was used to address a hypothetical as opposed to an actual situation:-
If I were your teacher, I'd flunk you. (I am not your teacher)
If I were going to Antarctica, I'd go with my best friend. (I am not going to Antarctica)
If I was fast in the race, it's because I had competition to push me. (I may have been fast; I may not have. The condition is unclear)
If I was rude, I apologize. (I may have been rude. It depends on a person's point-of-view. The condition is unclear)
These examples are similar to those given by Perfect Pedant:-
"If I was a hopeless cad, I apologize."
"If I were a hopeless cad, I would never apologize."

The verb "to be" is, I think, the only verb in English that retains a subjunctive, and that subjunctive is "were" not "was".
Although the use of "If I was ......" has become common in this context it is technically incorrect.

Hairy Scot November 8, 2011, 8:19pm

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@Goofy - "If I lived in Paris, I would visit the Eiffel Tower." is definitely not correct.

"If I were living in Paris, I would visit the Eiffel Tower"
"If I had been living in Paris, I would have visited the Eiffel Tower."
"If I had lived in Paris, I would be able to speak French."
"If I lived in Paris, I apologise. I don't remember a thing about it."

willy wonka November 9, 2011, 12:25am

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Valentina raises interesting questions. Is the preference for 'informal' speech in any way motivated by a desire to be 'American', or to avoid being accused of pedantry? Not American, I think: Frasier Crane and Niles get it right!
Mr Ed Miliband is a man of education and high office in Britain. Is his choice of slang "was" in place of 'correct' "were" in a hypothetical "If I were the prime minister..." motivated by a wish not to seem pedantic, perhaps? What is wrong with being correct? Why is it pedantic? I am sure we all know the reason for that!

Brus November 9, 2011, 12:56am

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willy wonka: I don't think you'll find any English usage book, no matter how prescriptive, that says "If I lived in Paris, I would visit the Eiffel Tower." is not correct.

goofy November 9, 2011, 4:30am

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"The verb 'to be' is, I think, the only verb in English that retains a subjunctive, and that subjunctive is 'were' not 'was'."

No. When it is used, the subjunctive verb form shows up in three places:

1. The use of the uninflected base form of the verb in the third person singular:

I recommend that the minister approve the policy paper.

Expressions such as "God Save The Queen!" are idioms with this form of the subjunctive embedded within them.

2. The fossil "had better" usage (often shortened to "better" through ellipsis):

You'd better get going.

3. The "were" form of "be" (discussed).

JJMBallantyne November 9, 2011, 6:21am

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@Mediator, while JJMBallentine already touched on this, regarding:

"The verb 'to be' is, I think, the only verb in English that retains a subjunctive, and that subjunctive is 'were' not 'was'."

This is absolutely not true. Every verb in Engish has a subjunctive tense. The verb "to be" just happens to be the only one whose subjunctive form is irregular.

@Willy Wonka and Goofy, regarding:

"If I lived in Paris, I would visit the Eiffel Tower."

Of course this is correct. This isn't a prescriptive vs. descriptive issue. Willy, what you fail to recognize is that the subjunctive IS being used here. The prescriptively correct past subjunctive of "lived" is "lived".

What I think we have here is a general misunderstanding of the full breadth of application of the subjunctive. for all verbs, there are present, past, future, negative, etc. forms of the subjunctive, each with their own rules of construction and application. The subjunctive is not only limited to counterfactual assertions, either. For a quick review, check out the English section of this Wikipedia entry:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subjunctive_mood

porsche November 9, 2011, 3:20pm

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@Porsche @JJM

My apologies, you are absolutely correct.
I should have said "which has an irregular subjunctive", and perhaps have added, "It is that very fact which causes the confusion that led to this discussion."

Hairy Scot November 9, 2011, 3:44pm

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"Every verb in Engish has a subjunctive tense."

The subjunctive is a mood, not a tense.

And while most English verbs have at least one distinctly subjunctive verb form (the uninflected base form of the verb in the third person singular), many of those tricky modal verbs don't (they represent an entirely more cumbersome argument. For example, is "would" a subjunctive form of "will"?). We could open up another argument here about the conditional versus the subjunctive.

Because the presence of subjunctive verb forms in English is so limited, there's a tendency to overengineer the grammar. That Wikipedia link provides what I consider to be a vastly overcomplicated table on the English subjunctive.

A BIG part of our problem is that our approach to English grammar still tends to rely on hammering a square peg into the round hole of a Latin structural model; a model that is not always appropriate or even useful.

JJMBallantyne November 10, 2011, 9:03am

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I took Latin in high school (don't ask me why, I have forgotten).
My lasting memory is of one classics master with a sense of humour telling a bunch of second year students, "In Latin a sentence is a collection of nouns adverbs, and adjectives, made logical by a verb at the end."
In later life I found that description can also be applied to the German.
English has been greatly influenced by both Latinate and Germanic (almost typed Germinate) languages so perhaps there is more than one source of square holes.

Hairy Scot November 10, 2011, 3:46pm

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According to the Bad Linguistics blog, all three candidates said 'If I was your prime minister', before the last election, which is hardly surprising, as that's probably what the majority of educated British speakers would say. I think I say both as the whim takes me. But then I'm simply one of the swine.

As a separate form, the subjunctive has been disappearing from English for the last 400 years or so, and in BrE this is really its only remaining vestige apart from a few set expressions, such as 'If I were you'. It seems entirely natural to me that 'were' in conditionals will go the same way sooner or later.

As regards foreign learners, in TEFL we tend to use the expression 'the unreal past' to talk about hypothetical conditionals like this, seeing 'were' as an exception rather than the rule (as past subjunctive is otherwise identical to the indicative). And an optional exception at that; although we do warn them to use 'were' in more formal contexts.

Unlike the perfectly named PerfectPedant, I revel in the fact that English is governed by 'Common Usage'; that, through the linguistic choices we make, we can all collectively influence the development of our language. It seems to me to chime perfectly with Anglo-Saxon democratic traditions and legal systems based on custom. As the Roman rhetorician Quintilian put it, ''Custom is the most certain mistress of language."

Warsaw Will November 11, 2011, 3:24am

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"I revel in the fact that English is governed by 'Common Usage'"

Well of course, the truth is that all languages are - no matter what some august member of the Académie française or the Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española might wish to think.

JJMBallantyne November 11, 2011, 11:06am

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The most annoying thing about pedants is that they are usually correct.
While common usage can be a good thing, the unfortunate fact is that in lots of cases it is not.
@Warsaw Will
I think your statement "that's probably what the majority of educated British speakers would say" is well wide of the mark.
The fact remains that use of "If I was ...... I would" is technically incorrect.

Hairy Scot November 11, 2011, 11:57am

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@JJMB, "Tense" is often used to represent any combination of tense, aspect, and mood. Furthermore, there is a past, present, and future subjunctive. Still, I'll be happy to cede the point, athough this really isn't relevant to the discussion.

Let me restate as follows:

...Nearly every verb in Engish has a subjunctive construction. The verb "to be" just happens to be perhaps the only one whose subjunctive form is irregular...

To tell you the truth, I'm not sure whether you may agree with my points or not. Regarding:

"...And while most English verbs have at least one distinctly subjunctive verb form (the uninflected base form of the verb in the third person singular..."

That is consistent with my very point. "distinctly subjunctive" and "subjunctive" are not the same thing. Most correct uses of the subjunctive are not distinctly different from the corresponding non-subjunctive form. That doesn't mean that the subjunctive doesn't exist. It is the mood that determines its, er, "subjunctivity".

I agree, defective modals complicate things even further, but I'm not sure whether their defectiveness necessarily breaks from the normal subjunctive paradigm. Even if it does in some cases, so what?

Regarding the complexity of the Wikipedia link, here we do disagree. I think the link provides a very simple, yet relatively complete description of the subjunctive. It's also consistent with every English grammar book that I have ever seen.

Let me make yet another suggestion. Maybe "if I was you..." doesn't really represent the death of the subjunctive. It merely represents the death of a particular construction of the subjunctive. If it has become acceptable (and I'm not saying it hast or hasn't), then "was" simply replaces "were" as the subjunctive form. It wouldn't be the first time in history that a distinct subjunctive form became obsolete.

For what it's worth, I still use it, my young children do, and if it goes away, I'll be sad to see it go.

porsche November 11, 2011, 3:56pm

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I can't believe that no one has mentioned the fact that the subjunctive is only a mood. It is a matter of whether one would like to sound sophisticated or not. If you want to sound classy, you say "if I were", but if you want to sound artless, you say "if I was". It's as simple as that! It's like choosing between the words "career" and "vocation".

Hairy November 11, 2011, 4:23pm

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@Hairy

LOL

Hairy Scot November 11, 2011, 4:38pm

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@Mediator
- The most annoying thing about pedants is that they are usually correct. - Only if you believe in some kind of prescriptivist bible. I don't. I side with those linguists who think that the measure of what is correct is what is 'well-formed': what is acceptable to the majority of educated speakers.

- My comment (about the UK) 'was well wide of the mark' - Do you have evidence to support that?

- "If I was ...... I would" is technically incorrect. - It depends on who you ask and your definition of correctness (as above). These example sentences are from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry on 'if':

"If I was in charge, I'd do things differently."
"(rather formal) If I were in charge…"

The position of every UK-published TEFL book I've ever worked with is the same. The difference is not one so much one of correctness, but rather of formality. As I said I use both, depending on the situation and context.

According to the MWDEU, this use of 'was' alongside 'were' has been common since the 17th century - 'The success that the indicative form has had since has probably been abetted by the near invisibility of the subjunctive'. They include plenty of examples of unreal conditionals with 'was', by, amongst others: Byron, Robert Frost, Thackeray and Lewis Carrol (see Goofy's link).

Lastly, according to Michael Swan (Practical English Usage), the belief that only the 'were' usage is correct is much more prevalent in the US than in the UK. My comments are, of course, purely from a BrE perspective.

Warsaw Will November 11, 2011, 7:58pm

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@Warsaw Will
Like you I was expressing an opinion. Do you have evidence to back up yours?
Anyone who was educated in a British senior secondary school would definitely disagree with you.
Correct use of the language has nothing to do with any kind of "prescriptivist bible'.
If you wish to use it incorrectly then that is your choice.
You can also wear your cap backwards if you wish.

Hairy Scot November 11, 2011, 9:47pm

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"Correct use of the language has nothing to do with any kind of "prescriptivist bible'."

Of course, that would depend on what you mean by "correct".

JJMBallantyne November 12, 2011, 7:28am

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@JJMBallantyne
We have already established what is correct.
But despite all of the evidence you just refuse to acknowledge it.
Maybe you can give us your educational history?
Use of the correct form is by no means mandatory, it is of course entirely up to you, and as Mediator says,"You can also wear your cap backwards."

Hairy Scot November 12, 2011, 11:41am

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Perfect Pedant:
Which evidence are you referring to? The evidence provided by MWDEU shows that both "was" and "were" are standard English. Lots of people here have stated their opinions, but I haven't seen much evidence that only "were" is standard.

goofy November 12, 2011, 12:27pm

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Regarding:

"...I side with those linguists who think that the measure of what is correct is what is 'well-formed': what is acceptable to the majority of educated speakers..."

If many of the posts on this site are any indication, then all linguists think that the measure of what is correct is what is acceptable to any identifiable group of speakers, no matter how small.

No, let me change that. All linguists think that there is no such thing as "correct".

porsche November 12, 2011, 12:40pm

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There are many sources that state that "If I were" is the correct form for the subjunctive of the verb "to be".
What MWDEU lists as "standard" or "acceptable" is not necessarily "correct".
Even Wikipedia gets it right:-
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subjunctive_mood#E...

Hairy Scot November 12, 2011, 12:59pm

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I was taught English in the 1970s at the Berlitz School in Munich and the instructor always used "If I were......" not "If I was ..........".
I have since met a lot of Europeans whose second language is English, and they too use the "If I were ...." form.

Hairy Scot November 12, 2011, 1:25pm

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Hairy Scot November 12, 2011, 1:33pm

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I am obviously better educated than the Red Goofy

Hairy Scot November 12, 2011, 1:34pm

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Hairy Scot November 12, 2011, 1:35pm

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There seem to be lots of sites and sources which show "If I were........" as being correct.
Have yet to find one that states that "If I was....." is in fact correct, although most do concede that it is acceptable in an informal or conversational context.

Hairy Scot November 12, 2011, 2:28pm

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I am not the same Goofy as the Goofy who posted those two links. When I say "evidence" I'm talking about how good writers actually write. Anyone can make a website stating their opinion. But how can any consideration of the situation ignore actual usage?

goofy November 12, 2011, 2:42pm

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Your name is well chosen.

Hairy Scot November 12, 2011, 4:54pm

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"We have already established what is correct."

Quite the contrary.

We have established no such thing.

JJMBallantyne November 12, 2011, 5:19pm

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@JJMBallantyne

None so blind as he who will not see.

Hairy Scot November 12, 2011, 8:19pm

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Give us one example of a site or publication that states that the "was" in "If I was ........ I would" is a correct example of the subjunctive of the verb 'to be".

Hairy Scot November 12, 2011, 8:23pm

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According to The American Heritage Book of English Usage, it is standard English.
http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3038

goofy November 12, 2011, 8:38pm

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Who wrote this nonsense in the American Heritage Book of English Usage you quote? It is made up as he goes along by the writer, I suggest. It is obvious that "if I was" is incorrect English, and is what we might call demotic, or an attempt by the speaker to seem demotic to avoid being accused of being elitist, that is, educated. Or a clumsy, unprepared and wholly excusable minor gaffe in casual speech in a casual situation. None of these is what one wants of a hopeful politician in a formal situation, I argue.

Brus November 13, 2011, 4:52am

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Wow, what a lot of issues to address! So I'll start with the easiest ones.
@Willy wonka, much as as I like chocolate, I can't let you get away with this one - "If I lived in Paris, I would visit the Eiffel Tower.", is a perfectly standard example of what is known in EFL/ESL circles as a second conditional. Just google 'Second conditional'.

@Valentina. I don't think anybody was accusing you of being pedantic for using 'were', nor do any of us deny that 'were' is correct. It's just that some of us think that 'was' for unreal conditions is just as correct, at least in normal spoken English. Most of us use formal English very rarely.

Would the Egyptian tourist authority campaign of a couple of years ago really have used, "I wish I was in Egypt" as their slogan if it was commonly perceived to be such bad grammar. (Check it on YouTube)

You say you were taught at International House in the 70s, which means your teachers probably went to school in the 60s, as I did. At that time the teaching of prescriptive grammar was the norm in British schools, but that hasn't been true for the last forty years or so. If you doubt me, read David Crystal's 'The Stories of English'.

I was taught a lot of things then that would just get you funny looks today, such as obligatory 'may' for permission, 'to whom should I give this book', etc. British English has changed a lot since those days. And got a lot less formal.

For what it's worth, in modern EFL, we teach both forms, telling the students about the different registers, and letting them decide for themselves.

@mediator - "Anyone who was educated in a British senior secondary school would definitely disagree with you." - 'you're turning me schizophrenic, as apparently I have to disagree with myself - except I don't know exactly what you're talking about, as I've never heard this expression used in Britain, nor have my (British) colleagues, and Google hasn't been much help either, although the term does seem to be used in India. Do you mean a secondary school for seniors, or some supposedly superior school?

Anyway Cameron, Miliband and Clegg, who are all on record as saying 'If I was prime minister ...' all have pretty impeccable educational backgrounds.

@Mediator - "Correct usage has nothing to do with any kind of "prescriptive" bible." - but so many of these so-called rules were indeed introduced by the prescriptivists between the 18th and early 20th centuries. Again if you don't believe me read David Crystal's book. Crystal, as I'm sure you will know, is probably the greatest living authority on the history of the English language as spoken in Britain.

@Hairy Scot - Nor is anybody saying that "If I was ..., I would", is a correct example of the subjunctive. What I'm saying, and I think I differ a little from Porsche here, is that because indicative and subjunctive are almost identical, apart from this one exception, in Britain at least, people are ditching the subjunctive altogether, and using the indicative. JMMBallantyne mentions for example what I would call the present subjunctive - "I recommend that the minister approve the policy paper". Now I know that this form is used in the States, but it's pretty well dead in the UK, except in very formal documents. Swan (Practical English Usage) - "Most subjunctive forms are formal and unusual in British English. In 'that' clauses, British people usually prefer should + infinitive pr ordinary present and past tenses."

The ''were" construction is really all that's left, apart from fixed expressions, so it's not really that's disappearing too, albeit very slowly.

And for all those who look down their noses at MWDEU. I'm afraid you're betraying your own ignorance or perhaps prejudice. MWDEU is one of the most highly regarded books on usage, especially among linguists. It includes plenty of examples from British literature as well as American and is also highly readable. But I admit it is strongly descriptive.

Finally I would like to put my cards on the table, and would be very happy if others were to do the same. I am a 60-something British born and bred native speaker of BrE, RP to be precise, so not exactly at the informal end. I have a reasonably good higher education, teach English to foreigners for a living and blog about English grammar.

I'm getting a little tired of being told my English is not correct by people, one or two of whom I find little qualified to do so. In particular, the comments of one of the most virulent critics on the 'were' side on this post are riddled with grammatically unnatural sentences and unlikely language of a formality rarely heard among British speakers. But I did have a friend from Sri Lanka, for whom I think English was his first language, who spoke in a very similar way.

I would suspect that only PerfectPedant and possibly JMMBallantyne might have some first-hand knowledge of current British English. I'm only making this point because the original question related to the non-use of the subjunctive by a British politician, and I think the position of the subjunctive is very different in British English, to that in American English.

What about a bit of live and let live? You say tomato and I say tomato, etc. By the way I hope you all spotted my heinous breaking of your rule, which was entirely spontaneous. That's just the way it came out. Sorry about the length by the way.

Warsaw Will November 14, 2011, 12:58pm

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Sorry, that should have been:

- The ''were" construction is really all that's left, apart from in fixed expressions, so it's not really surprising that's disappearing too, albeit very slowly.

Typing is not one of my fortes.

Warsaw Will November 14, 2011, 1:03pm

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@Warsaw Will
" different in British English, to that in American English"
Tsk tsk
"Different from laddie!!" .

Hairy Scot November 16, 2011, 2:08pm

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@Warsaw Will
I did not say that anyone had accused me of being pedantic.
What I did say was that it puzzled me that anyone who advocates adherence to the rules of the language is vilified as a pedant, and that I was curious if this was something unique to the English language.
I would think that those who do not wish to follow the rules are a lot worse than those they decry as pedants.
The rules may be old.

Hairy Scot November 16, 2011, 3:25pm

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@Warsaw Will
I too am over 60, educated in Scotland during the 50s and early 60s, with "A" levels in a number of subjects and a degree in English.
I try to abide by the rules of language that I was taught during those formative years, but I do not expect everyone to agree with me.
What I do expect is that I be free to express an opinion as to what is correct or incorrect without being labelled a pedant.
I certainly would not label anyone who disagreed with me as an ignoramus.
However when I hear the language of the hip hoppin', jive talkin', text speaking, bunnet oan backward youth of today I often contemplate with despair the future of the English language.
The damage done by Noah Webster will pale into insignificance compared to what these numbskulls will do.
But then I am a pedantic old curmudgeon. :)

Hairy Scot November 16, 2011, 3:45pm

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Valentina,
you hit the nail on the head. The politicians speak incorrect English even when they do know the difference, in order to seem demotic, and thereby not lose the votes of those who might think them acting as if superior if they were to get it right. Strange, is it not? Yes, I think this is peculiar to English. Something to do with the climate, perhaps.

Brus November 16, 2011, 7:12pm

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@Hairy Scot - I wouldn't call you a pedant for using 'were', my objection is only if you insist that my saying 'was' is wrong. My impression is that you no longer live in the UK, but probably in North America (we say back to front, not backward). Language in the UK has become a lot less formal, and what is accepted as standard has changed a lot since the 50s and 60s. - I was taught to say 'to whom should I give this book?', but I would just get funny looks if I said that today.

@New Reader - 'different from / that / to' is the subject of a lot of noise on the Internet, and no doubt another PITE post somewhere. But you really should have checked a dictionary first, laddie (or lassie)! I would indeed say 'different from' with a noun or pronoun. But I speak BrE where 'different to' is also perfectly acceptable, and is probably preferred when the next word is 'that' or 'what'. These examples are from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary:

'American English is significantly different from British English.'
(British English) 'It's very different to what I'm used to.'

And here is H.W. Fowler:

'That different can only be followed by 'from' and not by 'to' is a superstition.'

So tsk tsk, yersel!

Warsaw Will November 20, 2011, 2:38am

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Despite our differences, this post has thrown up some really interesting stuff, and I thought it would be worth doing (rather a long) blog entry on my thoughts. So if any one is interested it's at:

http://random-idea-english.blogspot.com/2011/11...

I hope this isn't breaking any forum rules.

Warsaw Will November 20, 2011, 10:13am

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@Warsaw Will
My feeling is that there is a difference between "British English" and "English English", especially the variety spoken in South East England.
As a Scot, I would love to be able to say that English is my second language, but alas that is not the case.
At the risk of starting a civil war, I would note that there are those who maintain that the Scots tend to be more grammatically correct than the English.
If that is a fact then it is almost certainly due to those hard-assed old pedants who beat the language into us with the help of the major product of Lochgelly!

Hairy Scot November 23, 2011, 4:19pm

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"It is high time you went to bed".
"I would rather that you didn't come with me".
"I wish that bank accounts came with interest-free loans attached".
So why do these sentences use a "past" tense when talking about the present/future???

jayles January 19, 2012, 4:35pm

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@jayles: Those sentences use "past" tenses because they are incorrect. They should read:

"It is high time you go to bed."
"I would prefer that you don't come with me." (rather is not a verb)
"I wish that bank accounts would come with interest-free loans attached."

Those sentences you submitted would fall into the "common usage" column. We hear usage like that regularly and so it sounds correct, even though it isn't.

spiceman April 24, 2012, 9:28pm

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@spiceman ... Those are not past tenses but rather subjunctives and are right.

The subjunctive is typically used after two structures:

1. the verbs: ask, command, demand, insist, propose, recommend, request, suggest + that ...
2. the expressions: it is desirable, essential, important, necessary, vital + that ...

In #1, the kid is clearly not going to bed. It's a command when you say, "It's high time (that) you WENT to bed." ... Think of: I wish you WERE here (when the person is clearly not there).

In #2, "I would rather (falls under #2 - desirable; the implied verb is "like") that you DID not come with me".

In #3, another "desirable", "I wish that bank accounts CAME with interest-free loans attached."

The subjectiv form often looks like the past tense.

The "rather" usage is a set form that goes way back. I had/would rather is an idiom in which the verb (like) is simply implied. Structurally it may be somewhat confusing, but semantically it's perfectly fine and it's been in use for so long that I don't think anyone would ever misunderstand it.

AnWulf April 26, 2012, 9:42am

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I think where I run into trouble is with an old Catholic school english teaching..."when in doubt, remove everything but the subject and the verb...if they don't agree, it's wrong". So, Bill and Ernie make pies for a living. Bill and Ernie MAKE they don't MAKES even though pies is plural. So, I would never say "I were" (going to the store, having a nap, etc). We were, yes. That's why I always thought "was" should be the form used. Of course, now I've read this discussion and my head has exploded. ;)

docswee June 19, 2012, 10:52am

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Hey, Hairy Scot:
"the Scots tend to be more grammatically correct than the English.
If that is a fact then it is almost certainly due to those hard-assed old pedants who beat the language into us with the help of the major product of Lochgelly!" - would that be the 'strap' then, or the malt? I have tasted them both, and know which I prefer!

Now, once again, children: the subjunctive "if I were you"; "I would prefer that you did not come..." are for situations where the action discussed cannot happen or you do not suppose or wish would happen:

"If you have worked hard you will pass your exams" means maybe you have worked hard and will pass ... - open condition, possible, indicative verbs;

"If you worked hard you would pass your exams" means you aren't, or I think you won't, so I think you won't pass ...- closed condition (in my opinion) so I use the subjunctive which looks like the past but it isn't because you could use this way of putting it weeks before the exams while there is still time to mend your ways, but I am phrasing it in such a way as to suggest that you are not, in my view, going to work hard. How else can such - not all that subtle, after all, - nuances of meaning be conveyed if one cannot cope with the subjunctive?

"If you had/were to have worked hard you would have passed" means you didn't work and you didn't pass. Subjunctive because we are discussing things which were never done or never happened but might have been. I challenge anyone to express this message without using the subjunctive.

Now, and this is the crunch: since we must sometimes use the subjunctive, it exists, and as it exists we should use it when it is appropriate, that is, whenever we are discussing things which cannot, do or did not happen, and also to convey the view that what we would like to happen, or to have happened, won't or didn't, although it might.

Oh, come on: does all that really do your head in? Perhaps a wee touch of the Lochgelly ...

Brus June 19, 2012, 3:36pm

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So, jayles

"It is high time you went to bed" is not past, but suggests that great though the plan may be in your mind, it is conceivable that your addressee will not go to bed, so this is subjunctive, expressing the doubt about the outcome.
"I would rather that you didn't come with me". Is subjunctive, as you are talking about an act (come) which you hope or think won't happen.
"I wish that bank accounts came with interest-free loans attached". Is subjunctive because you are discussing things which don't happen.

That is why these sentences use a "past" tense when talking about the present/future.

It is not a past tense at all, each case is a subjunctive, describing a verb action which cannot happen, or is not happening, or you don't want to happen, or you don't think will, or you have doubts, will happen. The English subjunctive verb has the same form, usually, as the past tense of that verb. The exception is "be", the present subjunctive of 'be', used for remote future conditions, as eg "if it be your choice" refers to the future when you must make your decision and I don't know, or wish to convey my uncertainty about your choice. "If it is your choice" - indicative - sounds as if you think the choice is already made, so present tense (not oddly, as the choice stands now).

Hey, where's the Lochgelly?

Brus June 19, 2012, 3:57pm

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"A Student's Introduction to English Grammar" by Huddleston and Pullum describes three uses for the past tense:

1 past time: I promised to be back for lunch.

2 modal remoteness: I wish they lived nearby. If he loved her, he'd change his job.
This has traditionally been called the "subjunctive". It covers cases where the event is modally remote, either it's counterfactual, or its fulfillment is a remote possibility. Presumably "It is time you went to bed" falls here as well.

3 backshift in indirect reported speech: I told Stacey that Kim had (instead of has) blue eyes.

http://books.google.ca/books?id=qlxDqB4ldx4C&am...

goofy June 19, 2012, 4:20pm

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Spiceman had some thoughts on April 24:

""It is high time you go to bed." I say is more bossy, "you went" is subjunctive, allowing space for a polite bit of choice, however insincere.

"I would prefer that you don't come with me." (rather is not a verb, you say) -I say 'would' is a verb; rather is an adverb, makes no difference, Spiceman. 'I would rather' is using an antique verb 'would' which means 'want' so the expression is wholly correct and means 'prefer' but just sounds a wee bit less prissy.
"I wish that bank accounts would come with interest-free loans attached." - 'came' is present subjunctive (looks like past indicative) because they don't come that way, so we are talking about a situation which does not obtain. 'Would come' suggests a future state of things, 'came' talks of the current state.

You, Spiceman, say (I quote): "Those sentences you submitted would fall into the 'common usage' column. We hear usage like that regularly and so it sounds correct, even though it isn't." Well, Spiceman, actually, it is correct.

Brus June 19, 2012, 5:22pm

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Crazy English

Salahudheen August 7, 2012, 5:50am

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In German, the subjunctive mood is alive and well, and people use it every day.
I have few doubts that thsi is also true of other languages of Mainland Europe.
Hence, people who are accustomed top using the subjunctive mood in their native language (on "automatic pilot"), then they are much more likely to use the subjunctive mode the right way in English. So, this is the root of that.

Furthermore, in German there are two forms of the subjunctive mood, referred to as Subjunctive I and Subjunctive II, but I never could keep those names straight.
Nevertheless, in English, one of these forms is dead EXCEPT in some uses of the verb "may" that do not have anything to do with asking permission. E.G.
"That may be true," and in some odd kinds of commands such as "May the prisoner be hanged, drawn, quartered, and burned at the stake." I don't get this last one.

The other form of subjunctive mood in English still exists, but its use has become less and less common. I think that this loss is shameful. Examples.
1. That might be true.
2. If you would only use your brains, but that is hard to imagine.
3. If I were the emperor of the entire planet, then ...."
4. Then there is a whole family of helping verbs ("modal auxiliaries") that can be used in the subjunctive mood, especially in questions:
A: Could you do that for me? (Maybe you can and maybe you cannot.)
B. Do you have breakfast for me? (Maybe you do and maybe you don't.)
C. Will you let me out of here? (Maybe you will and maybe you won't)
D. Might we go to the circus tonigtht? (Maybe we will and maybe we won't.)
E. "Would" has more subjunctive uses in questions than can easily by counted. However, millions and millions of people have no idea that they are using the subjunction mood when they use the word "would". In fact, they use the word "would" in sentences that cast them into the subjunctive mood when the situation is not subjuntive at all. Why??? I just say sheer carelessness.

Would you give me 100 pounds sterling or 150 dollars? (Maybe you will and maybe you won't)
Also, being polite when giving an order: To a waitress: "Would you get me some ketchup and mustard?" Most speakers have no idea that this is in the subjunctive mood.
In German, the subjunctive form for the auxiliary verb "mag" is used much more than the indicative mood - as far as I know. This verb translates as "would" and it is "moechte" in German. (On the other hand, perhaps we American students were taught to use "moechte" a lot so that we would not come across as boorish in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Do you want to visit a country to be a guest, and then be a boor, too? I don't." Here is an example sentence:

"Moechte ich Wiener schnitzel, Kartoffelen und Apfelsafte gern haben."
equals, "I would like to have Wiener schnitzel, potatoes, and apple juice."

"Moechten Sie etwas Erpsensuppe gern haben?"
"Nein! Niemals moge Ich Erpsensuppe haben!"
equals. "Would you like to have some green pea soup?"
"No! I never want to have any green pea soup!"

D.A.W.

D. A. Wood August 10, 2012, 9:20pm

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Oops - I used incorrect word order. One of my example sentences should have been:

"Ich moechte Wiener schnitzel, Kartoffelen und Apfelsafte gern haben."
"I would like to have Wiener schnitzel, potatoes, and apple juice."
D.A.W.

D. A. Wood August 10, 2012, 9:26pm

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Brus, from the study of German we come to realize that in the following sentence of yours, the addition of the VERB "would" is just an element of politeness:

"I would prefer that you don't come with me."

In contrast, the sentence without the "would" is bossy:
"I prefer that you do not come with me."

Then, we could make it completely bossy by putting it into the imperative mood:
"Don't come with me."
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Some people have laughed at me for stating that to really understand English grammar and to use it right, it is very helpful to understand other Western European languages.
The use of the subjunctive mood is a salient case of this.

I only know German, but my impression is that knowing Dutch, Czech, Polish, or Italian would help dramatically in understanding the subjunctive mood in English -- and especially since so much of the subjunctive mood in English has become vestigal.

Languauges do no exist in a vacuum. English is an Indo-European language, and understanding other Indo-European languages helps you understand how English works!

It is similar to how understanding the anatomy of the horse helps you understand the anatomy of th rhinoceros and the zebra. Some people still believe that all of this is preposterous -- but that is their failing.
D.A.W.

D. A. Wood August 10, 2012, 9:46pm

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"A Student's Introduction to English Grammar" by Huddleston and Pullum describes three uses for the past tense:
3 backshift in indirect reported speech: I told Stacey that Kim had (instead of has) blue eyes.

In German, this is readily explained by the use of the subjunctive mood in indirect quotations, which is nearly always done.

As it was explained to me, when you are indirectly quoting someone, there is no guarantee that the person really said that. Hence, the subjunctive mood comes into use to express that element of doubt.

D. A. Wood August 10, 2012, 9:53pm

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I do not think that anyone else has written anything here about the use of the subjunctive mood to express that elements of doubt in statements, questions, commands, etc. Yes, it truly is used this way, too.

I know an American who had lived in Saudi Arabia for a number of years to teach at a technical university there. The subject of Saudi Arabian food came up. He told me that he had eaten some goat meat while he was there, but he had never tried any camel meat.
Well, while he was there, someone might have asked him,
"Would you like to eat some grilled camel at the students' party?"
Aha, this is in the subjunctive mood because there is doubt.
He might have replied,
"Hell, no," or "I don't think so," or "It is time for me to try some of that."
Also, he might put some in his mouth and then spit it out.
Doubt, doubt, doubt! The subjunctive mood.
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Situations that are clearly in contrast with reality:
"If I were the king of Saudi Arabia, there would be free camel for everyone!"
Subjunctive mood.
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Adding politeness to an order, such as to a waitress:
"Would you bring me some of that goat with noodles and gravy?"
Subjunctive mood.
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Believe it or not, this is in the subjunctive mood, too:
"May God be with us." (Or Allah, or Jesus, or The Buddah.)

Ultimately: "May The Force be with you!"
Yes, the subjunctive mood in STAR WARS.

D.A.W.

D. A. Wood August 10, 2012, 10:12pm

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Yes     No