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If anyone else were...

Dear Sirs, I read your post on “I was/ I were”.  I found it very helpful, resuscitating memories of English classes. I’m still not sure if I should use “was” or “were” in this sentence, below. 

“And if anyone else were to peek, they would see the bear cubs looking fast asleep, dreaming of all the things they loved.”

The “anyone else” might be peeking and might not be peeking. We don’t know. “were” sounds better to my ear, but my MS Word has it underlined in green. Who is correct? Me or the machine?

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IMHO you are correct.

Hairy Scot October 4, 2015, 7:06pm

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".. if he was to be re-eligible,.." Pennsylvania. Constitutional Convention - ‎1837
" .. if he was to decide at once.." Parliamentary Debates: Official Report :Volume 39 - 1819
"..if he were to take it into his head .. Hansard's Parliamentary Debates 1832
".. If he were to leave the number of lists at fourteen.." Lord Brougham's Speech on Reform in Chancery: Delivered in 1831

http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=if...

jayles the unwoven October 5, 2015, 12:23pm

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http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=if...

Frankly I teach only "were to" to students learning English; the old subjunctive sounds good here.

jayles the unwoven October 5, 2015, 12:53pm

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Many would consider both correct, Oxford Dictionaries giving these two examples:

"if I were to lose ..."
"if I was to tell you, you’d think I was mad"

There is some argument to say "were" is more elegant (others might say it simply makes you sound "educated"), but few today would say "was" is incorrect, at least in speech. But it's true that by using "were" you're unlikely to upset anyone, whereas there is still a rather tradionalist school of thought that considers "was" incorrect here, and I'd certainly use "were" in more formal contexts. On the internet with "if he/I" "was" is well in the lead, with "if anyone" the difference is not so great, although "was" is still ahead.

I think jayles has the possibly the best answer: it sounds good. That's fine, and I'd no doubt agree, but we don't have to be elegant all the time.

@jayles - I think the second reference was a bit too specific, with very low numbers. I think this gives a better picture, and is what I'd largely expect:

http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=if...

Warsaw Will October 8, 2015, 3:44am

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Yes     No